Could a rental car pose a Cyber Threat?
It seems like everywhere you look today, there is the potential for a Cyber Threat. In a recent article from USA Today, USB ports in rental cars could pose a serious Cyber Threat through the Infotainment systems in cars. These systems have the option to pair with a smart phone to create a hands-free environment while driving. While the Cyber Threat described in the article is not technically a threat if you own the car, when it comes to a rental car, the data from your phone could be privy to the next renter.
Such convenient connections can be a trap for travelers, experts warn. The Federal Trade Commission recently sounded the alarm on smartphones interfacing with the on board computers of rental cars, saying it could expose your personal information to future renters, employees or even hackers.
The author states that the bottom line here is that now more than ever it is imperative that you practice safe connecting. He goes on to explain the warning:
“Smart systems installed in vehicles provide a new way for hackers to steal information or install dangerous software on your phone,” warns Henry Carter, a computer science professor at Villanova University. “A malicious application could theoretically be installed that would automatically tamper with any mobile devices that were connected to the vehicle.”
The author notes that while, recently, there haven’t been many reports of stolen data through USB ports in rental cars, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any stolen data. Here is the main reason why this should be considered a valid Cyber Threat:
Cars are essentially computers on wheels, says John Michelsen, chief product officer at Zimperium, an enterprise mobile security company. Consider the Ford F-150, whose onboard computer system has 150 million lines of code. That’s more programming than a Boeing 787, which has 7 million lines of code. You don’t know what the computer will do with the data you shared once you return the car to the lot, and chances are, neither does the car rental company.
In these rental cars you will be prompted to trust the computer in the car using your smart phone. It is best not to trust it. But it’s not just rental cars you need to be cautious of. Any public place with shared “free” networks has the potential to be a serious Cyber Threat. The issue with these is that they are free, but any infected station can take over your device in a second and cause all kinds of trouble.
Here is the big takeaway: everything today has the potential to be a Cyber Threat. Avoid public, free networks and stations. Do not let your guard down. You may not think you have any data of value, but anything is of value to a hacker.