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Auto Dealers and Car Hacking: Guaranteed Threat or Not?

Posted by Brandon Weaver | Wed, Aug 05, 2015 @ 11:00 AM

You’re taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive with your wife and kids up the California coast on Highway 1. Windows down, Pandora streaming, admiring the picturesque horizon – when all of a sudden your horn starts honking uncontrollably, your music explodes to full blast, and your brakes fail. 

Now you’re careening around sharp corners trying to dodge oncoming traffic and the steep cliff to your left. Boom! You crash into a ditch. 

Your car was hacked with no warning and nothing you could do to regain control. 

That’s the most frightening scenario that some consumers worry about when considering an auto with a sophisticated computerized co-pilot onboard. Privacy concerns rank a close second. 


The average car today incorporates a complex network of computers designed to make vehicles smarter. With a computer tracking everything from gas levels, tire pressure, GPS directions, and the location of everything nearby, the car can help keep the driver safe. Other capabilities, such as Bluetooth and WiFi networks, make the car more appealing and more useful as well. 

But with all of these vehicle luxuries come vulnerabilities. 

Any network can be hacked, so as auto makers look to stay current with consumer technology and equip vehicles with more and more connectivity, car hacking may become more top-of-mind with drivers. 

How Car Hacking Works 

how-car-hacking-worksWithout getting too technical, here’s the abridged version

  • A driver downloads an app to his phone that will let him do something in his car.
  • When the app connects to the car via Bluetooth or the WiFi, it installs a file on the car’s computer system
  • The file moves itself from the infotainment system to the control system, because the two use the same network.
  • The vehicle connects to some external network, such as UCONNECT, and the hacker can now communicate with the car and take it over. 

60 Minutes demonstrated how hackers can gain control over a passenger vehicle. And even more frighteningly, just last month Wired Magazine remotely seized  control of a Jeep Cherokee – while it was on a regular highway with a reporter onboard – demonstrating that the threat is valid. 

Hacking’s Financial Implications 

Car hacking has little financial motive for perpetrators when compared to traditional computer hacking. Traditional hacking produces stolen identities, bank account access, and credit card information that can be sold on the black market. Car computers don’t store this information. 

Since the threat is primarily to safety, regulators have made it clear to OEMs that they need to provide protection. Or else. Just last week, Fiat Chrysler was smacked with a record $105 million fine for not sufficiently recalling effected vehicles in a prompt manner and notifying owners, dealers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This fine comes on the heels of a 1.4 million vehicle recall to install software that prevents hackers from gaining remote control of the engine, steering, and other systems, particularly through the UCONNECT network. 

If automakers are being fined and are issuing recalls for safety software updates; stock prices can fall, future sales can decline, and public perception of the brand will falter. This creates the triple negative no auto manufacturer wants to experience. 

Why Experts Say It’s Not THAT Concerning 

That may motivate them to handle things proactively, but in fact the chances the story that started this article will actually happen is exceedingly slim. 

It takes expert coders months to effectively execute a car hack because they have to figure out how to hack into a Uconnect vehicle, reverse engineer the code that allows vehicle control, and learn the car’s IP address. All of this drops the likelihood of a hacker targeting one specific vehicle down to near-zero. 

Chris Valasek, IOActive’s Director of Vehicle Security Research is “more afraid of a driver texting and driving and running into me than a hack.” Miller Newton of PKWARE concurs, saying he is more concerned about hacking threats to networked medical devices because they stream critical and life-saving information to the cloud. 


The car-hacking debate will continue to rage on: Is it a real concern for drivers and auto makers, or a media-fueled story that gained traction from controlled environments? 

There is no debate with check guarantee because it mitigates payment risk. For auto dealers in particular, C.A.R.S. combines check guarantee services, remote deposit capture, hold check, and C.O.D. all in one convenient payment service. 

With C.A.R.S., you can enjoy check deposits at your point of sale, multiple check flexibility for both you and the buyer, and Check on Delivery is especially helpful for your parts and service department. 

As security measures improve to eliminate car hacking, when drivers make their down payment or visit for maintenance, how do you sleep soundly knowing their checks will clear with no issues? C.A.R.S. can be your sleep aid and revenue producing tool you’ve been looking for. No hacks, just increased sales and a lot of money saved on check deposits.

auto dealer remote deposit capture

Topics: Auto Dealerships

Written by Brandon Weaver