You can now connect your car to the internet.

This model year saw vehicles equipped with WiFi 4G LTE Hotspot capabilities. General Motors is one of the first to offer this feature throughout their entire lineup, and other manufacturers are close behind.

There’s plenty of benefits to putting your car online.  During long trips, passengers will appreciate using it to Hotspot their smartphones and save their data plans.  You can stream your Spotify playlist, or share your location via Glympse like in Ford’s all-new Sync3 system. Plug a dongle into the car and enjoy a reduced insurance rate based on how you drive. And keeping kids occupied in the backseat is now easier.

Like anything though, with good comes bad, and in this case, the bad is that connecting your vehicle to the internet can open it up to some serious security vulnerabilities.

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Maybe you remember the news from the summer – for the first time ever, a vehicle was remotely hacked (up until then, physical access to the car was required.)

From miles away, two security researchers took control of a Jeep Cherokee and turned the radio and A/C on high, cut its transmission while on the highway, then disengaged the brakes and sent the driver into a ditch.

Chrysler issued a software patch to the 1.8 million affected vehicles, and Sprint closed the cellular port the pair used to breach the car. The good news for us Canadians was our vehicles were not affected, just those in the States.

KeriBlog - Securing your Car 3However!

It won’t always be like this, and it’s now time to form good habits, because connecting a car comes with a responsibility.

Think of it like this: okay so you didn’t update your phone, but really that only affects you so no big deal. But your car is different, it’s out there on the public roads.  A list of things to consider when putting a car online:

  • there is no anti-virus software for a car.  Maybe one day, but for now it’s all up to the owner
  • that’s why it must be a priority that when an automaker issues a software update, you do it
  • that update will likely be on a USB key that you plug into the vehicle. You’ll visit your dealership to pick one up, or download the patch onto a USB key from their website
  • automakers are moving towards Over-the-Air updates, but right now only Tesla and Ford’s Sync3 offer OTA capabilities
  •  become familiar with the OBDII port – On-Board Diagnostics, and the II is pronounced “two.”  The port is how to connect to the computers inside a car. Mandatory since 1996, it’s located within two feet of the steering wheel. For example, those new insurance plans – pay reduced fees based on how you drive
  • use an internet-enabled device that plugs into the OBDII port to track the vehicle
  •  never connect the car to public WiFi, ever, for any reason, this is the worst idea of all time, hope this dramatic language is getting through!

Here’s how to secure a car’s WiFi connection

KeriBlog - Securing your Car 41 – turn WiFi Hotspot on

2 – choose WPA2 security

3 – WEP security is barely any

4 – choosing None is a terrible idea

Lastly, remember – you are legally responsible for those using your Hotspot.

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