Can Electric Cars Be Hacked? The Answer May Suprise You


One of the scariest thoughts that people have about new electric cars, especially semi-autonomous cars, is the car being hacked. Some movies and TV shows have already implanted terrible ideas about what could happen if we moved to electric cars. Scenes about cars being taken over and driving themselves off bridges or crashing into each other are common when we first think about electric cars being hacked. Fortunately, no events like this have really taken place in real life. But this does not mean no electric car has ever been hacked.

Can electric cars be hacked? Electric cars can be hacked, but no cases have been reported of a vehicle being completely taken over. Hackers have been able to get the personal information of the owner of the vehicle, but the complex firewall and safety systems of EV’s prevent remote location takeovers.

The scariest ability of hackers that may be found possible in the future is a complete driving system takeover. Electric cars have complex anti-theft systems, much greater than conventional vehicles. So being able to completely take over a vehicle is still considered science fiction at this point.

So far, hacking is not super common when it comes to electric cars and when it does, it is generally the stealing of personal information. This is a good and a bad thing as it means you are generally pretty safe when it comes to driving and using the autonomous features on your car.

Your personal information is generally what is at risk when it comes to hacking an electric vehicle, but even then most electric cars don’t have excess amounts of information that can be stolen. The most vulnerable item would be your credit card number which can be stolen when you use public chargers in some instances. Fortunately, hackings are not super common and nearly all electric cars have special features to prevent this.

Can An Electric Car Be Hacked?

Some people have a large fear that their electric car could be hacked and a hacker could drive their car around and cause damage to people or property from a remote location. Fortunately, this really isn’t possible with the technology that electric cars have. In theory, this could be possible but only for specific electric cars with advanced autonomous features that are either being controlled through a remote location, and no vehicles that are currently available really have this ability. This means that any car that is on the market currently is not susceptible to large-scale hacking that can control lots of cars. 

Most cars can withstand most hacking attempts and are difficult to hack individually, however, if they got into the servers that the car relies on, this could be a completely different story. They could also be hacked if the hacker was capable of planting a special control system into the car’s computer system, but this would need to be done physically and most electric cars have anti-theft systems that prevent anyone from getting into the vehicle. By doing either one of these, the hacker would gain access to not only the information on the vehicle but would also be able to start, stop, steer, and maybe even drive the car from a remote location.

Another type of hacking that may occur is the hacking of charging stations. If a hacker is able to get into the servers or a network of chargers then a multitude of problems could arise. The hacker could have the ability to stop the charging network altogether, stop people from receiving electricity, or even overcharge the batteries which can harm the vehicle. This has been done by hackers and is not impossible, this may even be possible to do to an at-home charger but generally, hackers don’t want to focus on a single charger which makes it much safer than public chargers.

Which Electric Car Models Are Most Susceptible To Being Hacked?

When it comes to what car models are the most susceptible to being hacked, it is hard to really say as electric cars are still quite young. Some electric cars don’t have extremely complex computer systems that would even have information or controls that a hacker would be able to hack.

In general, the more computer equipment any vehicle has, including internal combustion and electric vehicles, the easier it is to hack into the vehicle. What kind of hacking that is may vary from car to car, whether it be actually being able to take over the vehicle, find personal information, or remotely unlock the car, there are lots of different ways that cars can be hacked.

Tesla vehicles have been shown to be susceptible to hacking, specifically the Model X and Model S. The reason that the model S and X have more reported hacking problems is probably because those are two of the most common EV’s on the road, so obviously they’ll have more reports. All models have had their fair share of issues when it comes to hacking issues but many software and hacking problems have been identified on these two specific cars that have allowed hackers to access a variety of things. 

It would be unfair to say that these cars are the worst when it comes to the ability to be hacked. Because most of the hacking had been done by companies that uncover the weakness and Tesla pays them when they do find a weakness and then promptly fix it.

Many issues with the key fobs, turning on the car, autopilot, and even Tesla’s servers have been identified in this manner and patched so that nothing like that can happen again. Nearly all car companies do this which makes it hard for hackers to repeatedly use the same tricks, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart enough to devise new ones to get the same results.

How OBD3 Could Make Cars More Susceptible To Being Hacked

OBD 3 (on-board diagnostics) is an upgrade over the OBD 2 system that is in many cars today. Since it became mandatory for vehicles to have since 1996, not a lot has changed. However, there have been talks about an OBD3 although no official data has truly been released on it yet. It is suspected that it will come soon after electric cars start to become more common on our roads.

It is good to note that everything said about the OBD3 system is subject to change, and as I said previously, there really isn’t a lot of information about it yet. This system is expected to change the way cars are able to diagnose themselves and handle themselves, making it easier for both the driver and the mechanic.

From what we know right now there are talks about the OBD3 having a satellite feature that will make a network of cars and make it so that if the cars need software updates they are able to receive them. This is kind of a double-edged sword.

On one hand, the idea of making a network of vehicles puts it at great risk of being hacked and if it were to get hacked then the consequences could be catastrophic. But, it will make a lot of things safe and easier to use about our cars, and may even offer us higher protection against hackers if the correct safety precautions are taken. In short, yes, the OBD3 may make cars more susceptible to hacking but until we have more information on the topic we can’t be sure and it should not be dismissed because of the fear of hacking.

Can Someone Steal Your Information If They Hack Your Car’s Computer?

Electric cars do have information on their computers, and some of it you probably don’t want to be stolen. Things like where the car goes, certain entertainment site usernames and passwords, and in some cases even credit card or banking information. Practically anything that the computer in your car has access to, the hacker will then have access to. Most websites and apps will try and prevent hackers from stealing your information from their sites but this does not mean it always works. 

Your car’s computer is generally what hackers will go after if they want information from your car. Not only does it give them access to different apps and maybe even your phone, but it gives them access to the computer systems in the car. From little things such as climate control inside of the vehicle to big things such as completely taking over the car.

If a hacker is able to fully hack the computer system of a vehicle they will have control of everything that the computer has control of, and that is nearly the whole car when it comes to new electric cars. They will not only be able to control this but have access to all of the records that the computer has, meaning any private information that the computer has stored will be available.

Fortunately, this type of hacking is extremely difficult when it comes to fully taking over a vehicle. Only a few times of this happening have been recorded and most all in a purposeful way so as to point out the problem and not for malicious intent. If they do manage to access your car’s computer and the information that is stored on there then it is extremely difficult to notice it as there really won’t be a physical change to the way the car works.

How you may catch them is an unidentified charge to your card or an unidentified or odd login to any of your entertainment accounts. Not all cars have this kind of information on their computers and it varies from vehicle to vehicle but whatever information is on your vehicle’s computer can be accessed by hackers.

If Someone Hacks Your Car, Can They Drive It Or Shut It Off?

A man named Jason Hughes hacked into Tesla’s server and gained the ability to move multiple cars very short distances, luckily he reported the bug to Tesla and they promptly fixed this issue. Another man who had a remote start feature on his phone was quickly able to figure out how easily he could hack into the app’s system to stop or start people’s cars if they had the app downloaded, again he reported this to the company of the app and the issue was fixed. These short stories show that people are capable of hacking into and either controlling or stealing the car is a possibility.

There has been no major news coverage of this repeatedly happening on electric cars while they are driving and generally this only happens when someone is illustrating how it could happen. This in no way means that it is impossible, matter of fact it is very possible and a scary reality that is becoming more of a possibility.

As cars start slowly becoming more autonomous it becomes easier for hackers to be able to fully take control of any kind of vehicle that has autonomous driving, or parking, features. Lots of research and development is being put into systems that can repel hacker attacks to make autonomous and electric cars safe but there is always the reality that it is possible to hack into the car.

It is very easy to find stories about electric cars being hacked, most of which are from companies that do this to make money. These stories are actually a good thing, if a company or person is able to find a flaw in an electric vehicle’s system then they will demonstrate it and report it to the car’s company and usually receive a pretty decently sized sum of money.

The car company will then make a patch or fix what needs to be fixed on these vehicles and release an update that will prevent this kind of hacking from happening. Because of this many electric cars have been made safer and safer throughout the years as more and more hacking tricks are prevented and the vehicles are protected.

How To Know If Your Car Has Been Hacked

It may be difficult to tell whether or not your car has been hacked, especially if they only hacked your car to steal information from you. If they do this the only way you will be able to tell is if you get an unapproved credit card purchase or if other websites detect suspicious on any accounts you may have.

Hopefully, you already are keeping watch on your accounts for different things as hackers have lots of different ways of getting into them. Also watch for unusual equipment on chargers as this could be a sign that a hacker has tampered with them. From card readers to different kinds of data collectors, hackers can employ a variety of equipment to get access to your vehicle and its information.

Another one of the signs that your vehicle has been hacked would be your car not responding or being slow to things such as turning or stepping on the gas or brake. Have the car checked immediately if you start to notice any changes in the normal way that the car drives as this might be a sign that your vehicle has been hacked.

It is important that you check the car if you suspect it to have been hacked because if it really had been hacked it could put your life, as well as the lives of others, on the line. Dealerships and other certified technicians should be able to tell if your car has been hacked and they should be able to fix any problem or damage that the hacker has caused.

Most of the time a hack will come in the shape of someone being able to unlock your car and steal items from inside without the key or a hacker being able to take over small parts of the car. There is no need to panic, there are ways to fix this and get rid of the hacker.

If your car does start moving on its own please do not try to stop it as you could get hurt, if you really want you could follow it with another vehicle and contact the correct authorities. If the hacking is not that serious and you suspect them of tampering and maybe unlocking your vehicle to steal items just call the police and notify them, sadly it is hard for anyone to track down a good hacker and they may not be found.

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