Cars are getting smarter — which threatens to make drivers more vulnerable to hackers.
This means both that hackers can potentially remotely control your vehicle’s systems, and also access your personal information.
A smartphone can produce up to 3 gigabytes of data per hour. Recently manufactured cars, on the other hand, can produce up to 25 gigabytes of data per hour — and the cars of the future will produce much more.
Andrea Amico, the founder and CEO of Privacy4Cars, a tech company dedicated to “resolving data privacy issues across the automotive ecosystem,” told The Post that cars have two main sources of data.
“The first,” he said, “involves the sensors in the vehicles, which are used to collect a host of biometric markers.”
The most common types of biometrics include voice, iris, retina recognition and fingerprint recognition. Last year, Hyundai patented eye scanner tech to replace car keys.
“The second source,” Amico added, “are the devices drivers and passengers bring inside the vehicle. Most people don’t realize that when they connect their phones [Bluetooth, wifi, USB, even if just using screen mirroring technologies such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay] cars download all sorts of information from our personal devices.”
That includes, he said, “Anything from your actual text messages to what apps are running on your phone, as well as your social media, logs of photos taken and files downloaded and much more are sucked out from people’s devices when they connect to take a hands-free call or use their favorite mapping app.”
Much of this data is stored in the cloud, which has proven over and over to be hackable.
In May, Toyota revealed a cloud data breach that exposed the car-location information of 2,150,000 drivers from November 2013, to April 2023.
But hackers actually have a number of entry points through cars. They can access the in-car computer system, allowing them to take control of various systems — including the throttle and brakes — as security experts did on a Jeep Cherokee back in 2015, for a Wired demonstration. USB data ports and key fobs are also accessible.
Vehicle hacking is a growing problem, one that is expected to get many times worse as cars go from being smartphones on wheels to supercomputers on wheels.
Also: In 2021, the country’s leading car brand, Ford, filed a patent for technology that will display advertisements directly in your car. Via the camera system, data from roadside billboards will be collected and displayed on an in-vehicle infotainment system.
Writers in the know have spoken at length about Ford’s desire to become the Google of the automobile industry.
In 2020, the global vehicle tracking system was worth $17.37 billion; by the end of the decade, it’s expected to be worth $109.95 billion.
Going forward, according to Amico, vehicle manufacturers “will add more and more sensors, so consumers can look forward to more and more surveillance and a continuation of the current lax industry security and privacy practices if nothing changes.”
Currently, due to sizable gaps in the federal law, law enforcement can extract sensitive personal data from many modern vehicles. Police require a warrant to access data on your mobile devices, but not for information stored on in-car systems.
Amico is particularly concerned by “the huge push from the industry to turn vehicles into software platforms.”
“The industry,” he added, “refers to this as ‘the software-defined vehicle.’”
Amico told The Post that “almost all vehicles that exit factories have ‘telematics,’” a portmanteau of telecommunications and informatics. This allows a vehicle to send and receive information, just like a smartphone. “Expect that trend to continue and to have the volume of real-time transmission dramatically grow,” noted Amico.
The objective, according to Amico, “is to dramatically expand the already large ecosystem of companies that offer services and subscriptions, and collect, share and sell data.”
As the line between mobile devices and in-car devices continues to blur, Amico fears that “cars will increasingly become a platform to develop insights on consumers, not any differently than laptop and smartphones, but much more insidious and hard to avoid.
“Attacks,” he believes, “will be both from hackers who will be attracted by the increasing amount and value of data that companies in the broad auto ecosystem collect and from regular bad people who will leverage these technologies to stalk, harass, defraud, steal and harm people.”
Amico’s site provides a helpful rundown on laws by state as well as the latest updates on legal privacy protections that are being introduced.
The privacy specialist urges concerned readers to “call their dealers and ask for help and information. Dealers should be the advocates and protectors of consumers.”