March 25, 2015

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Preventing Identity Theft: Could My Car Be Hacked?

When you buy a new vehicle these days, you get far more than a two-digit odometer reading and that new car smell.

Earlier this year, I bought a car with all the latest technology, from a rearview camera to Internet access. But I had to wonder: With all those bells and whistles, should I be concerned about preventing identity theft? Could someone hack into my car’s system?

I discovered that I’m not the only one raising these concerns — some security experts are right there with me.

New Car, New Problem

Forbes security writer Thomas Fox-Brewster recently pointed out that professional hackers have repeatedly shown they can remotely attack the technology systems in cars, but manufacturers still aren’t doing much to enhance protections.

Even more alarming, car makers don’t seem interested in discussing privacy, which means these cars could become targets for new types of identity theft. U.S. Sen. Edward Markey released a scathing report about the potential problems these cars could pose, especially if manufacturers remain indifferent to security and privacy issues.

If cars get hacked, it likely won’t just be my radio station presets changed or air conditioning turned to full blast. Instead, I may need to worry about critical functions getting attacked, like steering or brakes. And even if the car that I’m in doesn’t get hacked, what about other cars on the road? They could pose just as much of a danger to me as my own vehicle.

Deepening the problem is that the number of technology components in today’s cars could provide numerous openings for hackers, and it may not take much for them to get in. In fact, at a recent event hosted by a global auto parts supplier, hackers were invited to try breaking into a car remotely. The big winner was a 14-year-old who managed it with a few cheap parts from RadioShack.

Protecting Yourself

Auto manufacturers will need to address numerous cybersecurity risks in the near future. But for now, I can at least guard against many types of identity theft when I’m in my car, simply by adhering to the same safe computing practices that I do elsewhere.

Because vehicles now have Internet connections, practicing good online surfing methods is crucial to preventing identity theft. Just as you would if you were in a public space, skip visiting websites with sensitive information (e.g. your bank’s site) and implement strong password protection for all devices and systems.

Vehicle manufacturers still have a long way to go in improving security and privacy, so make sure you taking the appropriate steps to prevent identity theft through smart online strategies. And consider our identity protection services to help keep your identity safe in the event your identity is compromised.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mark Turnauckas.

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Heidi Daitch

Director, Strategic Programs at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.
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