Prevent Hackers From Accessing Your SUV With These 5 Tips

Published March 11, 2017 by Sean Jackson

We live in a unique age where technology permeates almost everything we do. If you buy a newer SUV, it isn’t uncommon for it to come with a wealth of technological features such as WiFi connectivity and accident avoidance technology. This is where the SUV’s systems work together by reading your surroundings then applying the brakes or reducing the engine’s throttle if they determine a collision is imminent. On the surface, the “smart” technology offered on newer SUVs seems incredible in that it’s never been easier to sync your smartphone, access directions, and even alter your drives through SUVs with drive modes. At the same time, your new SUV isn’t much different than your laptop or smartphone, meaning it can be vulnerable to hackers. If someone was able to hack into your vehicle’s computer, he or she could listen to your phone calls, or even worse, access some of your SUV’s most critical features such as its braking, ignition control and more. This potential problem further escalates if you have your smartphone connected when a hacking takes place. If your SUV’s computer system becomes compromised, they can gain access to your smartphone as well. With this, they can steal the financial information stored on your smartphones such as credit card or bank account numbers. As you can see, when your SUV becomes vulnerable it might lead to a multi-pronged attack. And with many manufacturers installing more technologically advanced features, more SUVs will carry these smart features moving forward. Therefore it brings up a dilemma, how do you take advantage of these features without risking your vehicle or your smartphone to hackers? Thankfully, law enforcement agencies like the FBI have been testing software vulnerabilities with SUVs and making recommendations to manufacturers on ways to make it safer. Along with this, the behaviors you employ when using your SUV’s systems can help you mitigate the risk of having your information or your SUV compromised.

Keep Informed of Recalls

Since manufacturers are becoming more proactive about their software they might issue a recall to fix any kinks that arise. The most notable example of this was when hackers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller announced they hacked into a Jeep Grand Cherokee by way of its Uconnect entertainment system. From there, they were able to control the SUV’s brakes, speed, even its windshield wipers. In response, Fiat Chrysler issued a massive recall affecting roughly 1.4 million models to fix the vulnerability. This example illustrates how important it is to stay abreast of developments concerning your SUV manufacturer. By reading helpful websites on SUV news like ours, Auto Blog and others, you can learn of any developments pertaining to recalls. Then, you can take prompt action to help prevent the vulnerability from affecting your SUV. Just as important as reading automotive news is to make sure your SUV’s manufacturer can contact you if or when a recall happens. Often, this is their primary way of notifying customers of recalls. When you receive the notice, it will contain information on what the company is doing to fix the problem and what you should do in the meantime. In most cases, this will require you to take your SUV in for service. With these factors in mind, staying in the loop is an effective way of keeping your SUV protected.

Stay Compliant with Software Updates

Similar to your phones or computers, programmers have software updates available for your SUV occasionally. These updates can include improvements in security which can protect your SUV from hackers. If you receive notification of a software update, it’s important to first verify it’s legit. You can do this by contacting the dealership where you bought the SUV. In addition, manufacturers might release a press statement and announce the updates via their social media pages. Software updates are easy to do. Simply, you take your SUV to your dealership where they can do it for you. Some might allow you to do the update remotely by way of USB connection. In either instance, once you verify the update is legit, be sure to do it quickly. A failure to comply could result in your SUV’s system having outdated security patches, making it more susceptible to hackers.

Use Caution with Third-Party Devices

Your SUV contains a diagnostic port called the OBD-II. Mechanics can use this port to test your SUV’s emissions and other systems, according to Safe Bee. Additionally, you can use this port to install vehicle monitoring equipment. By using this equipment, it’s another entry point hackers can gain access to your SUV’s systems. Therefore, unless it’s necessary, it’s a good idea to refrain using tracking devices. While on the surface, it could be a good way to keep an eye on say your teen driver, they also represent risk too, especially if a hacker is able to gain access to it.

Protect Your Smartphone

If your Android phone is infected and you sync it with your SUV, then it won’t be too hard for hackers to gain access to your vehicle either; this is why it’s important to keep any of your connected devices safe. The most effective way to do this is to practice safe browsing behaviors online such as refraining from clicking on links in email attachments from unknown senders and being smart about which websites you visit. You can also use a virtual private network (VPN). With a VPN, you have another layer of protection.

Choose a Model with Less Tech Gimmicks

An easy way to bypass all this is to choose an SUV that isn’t tech-savvy. There are older, more basic models available that don’t possess all the gadgets the newbies have and are less attractive to the prying eyes of hackers. Sure, you might not be able to connect your iPhone or have access to accident avoidance features, but you also avoid--to a point--your SUV being hacked as well.

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