The Cybersecurity Risk of Electric Vehicles

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is truly here—and it’s accelerating. Despite the bumps brought by COVID-19 to the automotive industry, analysts predict that the demand for electric vehicles will continue to grow in 2021. By 2023, 125 million electric cars will be on the road worldwide. 

This increased demand is largely driven by the implementation of aggressive climate goals across the globe and the gradual phasing out of internal combustion engines (ICE). Furthermore, the demand for EV is expected to jump from 10% to 58% by 2040. 

In the United States alone, 327,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in 2019 as the country started working on policy changes to reduce carbon emissions from its transportation industry. With this, new electric vehicle models, improved batteries, more readily available charging infrastructure, new markets, and price parity with traditional gas-powered vehicles will further put the electric vehicles’ growth on full throttle [1, 2].

However, not everything is smooth-cruising for the EV space. As much as the EV industry is helping slow down the environmental damages of the automotive industry as a whole, there’s also the rise of cybersecurity risks. According to experts, companies must address security risks before extensively rolling out their EVs.

While it is certainly possible to charge electric vehicles at home, electric vehicles plugged into a grid for charging are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks on electric vehicles can potentially put a driver’s life at risk by turning off headlights, disabling brakes, or taking oversteering. Cybercriminals are capable of doing this by simply jamming the vehicle control systems.

Furthermore, highly-skilled attackers can decrease the capacity of an electric vehicles’ battery capacity by 50% using sophisticated methods that average human drivers will hardly be able to detect [3]. Privacy is also a concern, as it’s been reported in 2019 that 22.9% of all cybersecurity incidents were related to privacy. The average loss due to unauthorized contact or disclosure is $1.52 million, while the cost of unauthorized data collection averages $1.61 million [4].

Cyber Security issues that affect electric vehicles

While it’s true that electric cars are the future, the world has to be prepared because cyber threats are a perpetual risk:

  • Commercial charging stations 

Through commercial charging stations, hackers can easily copy ID badges and use them for different transactions. They do this by rewiring charging requests and disabling charging points. 

  • Mobile apps

Mobile apps are also a target for cybercriminals, because they can access electric vehicles through mobile phones. WiFi networks are also susceptible to hacking. Once hackers are in, they can disable a vehicle’s alarm and gain control over other systems.

  • Command and control server

Through the command and control servers, hackers can attack an entire fleet of vehicles. They can do all kinds of sabotage to a company’s fleet, including annoying consumers to pay their bills and repetitively honking horns. The worst that could happen is that hackers can go as far as putting drivers’ safety at risk [6].

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References:

  1. Could electric vehicles present a Cybersecurity risk to the grid?
  2. The transportation sector needs a standards-driven, industry-wide approach to cybersecurity
  3. How to keep automated electric vehicles safe
  4. Cybersecurity for the Transportation Sector
  5. Electric Vehicle Growth: the brands, consumers, and EV public opinion trends in 2021
  6. Cyber Security Issues of Internet with Electric Vehicles