Gone are the times when all that could be done with the mobile in the car was to connect it to Bluetooth to be able to receive calls without using your hands. With the expansion of connectivity, both in vehicles and in smartphones, these possibilities have multiplied. It arises like this a world of possibilities and services that allow you to control car functions through your mobile phone and vice versa.
But like everything that has to do with computer connectivity, these possibilities are not without cybersecurity risks. A hacker could ‘sneak’ into these communications and manipulate them, which could lead to numerous problems for the occupants of the vehicle or the owner of the phone.
What are these threats that could affect the mobile-car connection and what can you do to avoid them?
What can you do with your mobile in the car?
Much has changed in the car-mobile relationship since Bluetooth connectivity became common a decade ago.
Currently, smartphones can interact with vehicles through the following technologies:
- Bluetooth: The most widespread form. Connect car and mobile wirelessly to make, among other functions, hands-free calls and play music from the smartphone through the vehicle’s speakers.
- Wifi: Having a Wi-Fi point on board the vehicle makes it possible to offer a wireless Internet connection to connect smartphones, tablets or any device that allows access to the Internet. In this way, passengers will be able to access e-mail, download documents, play music, watch series or movies, use online games … All these systems are optimized to work while the car is circulating, in such a way that you receive the most Internet signal. intense and reliable possible -something that does not always happen if we use the data connection of our own mobile-. This connection can be made in two ways: through a SIM card included in the car, or by sharing data from a phone so that the car amplifies the signal.
- Android Auto, Apple CarPlay y Mirror Link: These three systems serve the same purpose: project certain mobile applications on the central screen of the vehicle that could be useful while driving. This connection can be made physically with a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
- Applications: Most brands already offer a mobile application. With it, owners can control certain vehicle functions from their smartphone. Some of the most common are turning the air conditioning or engine on and off, opening and closing doors and knowing the exact position where the car is. Some even allow you to restrict the maximum speed at which the car circulates – in case you lend it to someone and you do not want them to run – or park it remotely. These apps also usually offer information about the vehicle: consumption, journeys made, maintenance history, etc.
- Wireless mobile chargers: After using the mobile so much, it is normal to run out of battery. The brands solved this with various USB ports scattered around the cabin, but they have begun to add some trays where the smartphone is recharged wirelessly when deposited on them -as long as the mobile is compatible with this technology-.
If you want to know what other curious functions you can handle from your car from your mobile, you can read this article.
Risks and precautions
So far, all are advantages. These technologies improve on-board comfort and provide exciting functionalities. But, as always happens when talking about connectivity, we must bear in mind that we may encounter cybersecurity problems. And is that a careless use of these technologies could lead to a cyberattack that compromises the safety of passengers on board.
However, there are certain measures that drivers and their companions can apply when connecting the mobile in the vehicle to avoid these dangers.
In the car
- Change the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth password. These technologies usually establish a security key as an intermediate step to allow the connection between car and mobile. But it is very convenient to change that password periodically. Why? If you don’t, any device that has ever connected will be able to do so again without your permission.. Also, that key should be difficult to guess. And when they are not being used, it is convenient to turn off both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to prevent these networks from being detectable from the outside and for a cybercriminal to locate them.
- Protects car USB sockets. So that no one connects a device in your car without your permission, it is best to block the USB ports with a plug with a key. In this way, only you can connect devices to these sockets and thus prevent a smartphone infected with a virus from connecting to your car. For about € 20, you can get a kit of these blockers on websites like Amazon.
- Keep your car software always up to date. Some brands, like Tesla, send these updates remotely thanks to the Internet, but others do them in person at official workshops. In one way or another, this method serves to correct security problems that the manufacturer has detected, because in that new version a patch will be installed to correct the problem.
On the tablet or mobile
- Always up-to-date apps. When using the official app of a brand, you must follow the same precautions as with any other mobile app. That is, always download it from official stores -such as Google Play or App Store- to avoid counterfeits that may contain malware and always have them updated to the latest version -the updates are the method that developers have to correct detected security vulnerabilities-.
- Install an antivirus. Mobile phones and tablets, like computers, can be infected with a virus. If an infected device is subsequently plugged into the car, the attack could be transferred from the first to the second. Therefore, you have to be sure that everything that is linked to the vehicle is cybersecurity, and an antivirus provides peace of mind in that work.
- Avoid risky behaviors. There are many ways to fall into the trap of a cybercriminal when using a mobile or tablet. For example, you should not download or click on any link you receive by email if you are not completely sure that the sender is trustworthy – to avoid falling into a phishing attack – and you should not connect to public Wi-Fi networks. It is also not recommended that override manufacturer restrictions, because they are designed to make your device work properly without security risks.