Even cars are no longer safe from hacking

Even cars are no longer safe from hacking

Most people are aware that there are many dangers lurking on the Internet: a hacking attack on the company network or the private computer is possible at any time. What hardly anyone knows is that hackers could also targeting cars – the more electronics they contain and the more networked they are, the greater the risk.

Nightmare or reality? 

  1. When your car goes on strike

    I'm really in a hurry today because I have a job interview. I want to start the engine and set off, but nothing happens. Instead, I see words on the cockpit display. When I read the text, my heart starts racing: “Do you want your car to drive again? Then you’d better pay ...”
  2. Ghost voice from the navigation device

    On the way to work, I'm sitting in my car, stuck in traffic. Suddenly the navigation device switches on, but the friendly voice doesn't want to divert me, but informs me that the vehicle has been hacked and is now being shut down.
  3. My car has gone crazy

    For once, I have an empty freeway in front of me. I drive at over 100 kilometers per hour when suddenly the hazard warning lights switch on and all windows shut down. Excitedly I steer to the hard shoulder and swear: Has my car gone crazy? A text in the display of my navigation system lights up: “YOU HAVE BEEN HACKED!”

These stories no longer belong in the realm of James Bond films and science fiction novels, but are already technically possible and quite conceivable.

Cars, rolling computers

Gone are the days when a bit of technical wisdom and a wrench could be used to repair just about anything on a car. Today, motor vehicles are rolling computers – an enormous number of functions are controlled electronically. In addition, they are usually networked, which we usually forget in everyday life. Who is actually aware that the GPS receives congestion information in real time from somewhere, that the hands-free system only works because the car's software accesses the mobile phone via Bluetooth, or that the eCall accident assistance system can locate the vehicle at any time?

Networking makes cars vulnerable

This networking makes the vehicles vulnerable. And the more intensively they are digitally upgraded and connected to networks, the more ways hackers have to attack. Their motivation could be to steal cars by manipulating the access system. It is also conceivable that they could paralyze the car's software and extort a ransom payment. “It becomes really interesting when cyber criminals use this opportunity to block important private data of the owner,” comments Patrick Brielmayer, IT security expert and former hacker.

A cat-and-mouse game

Recently, security experts discovered vulnerabilities in the IT of a well-known car brand and gained access to the vehicles. “I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before ransom demands are formulated,” says Philip Herger, Head of Motor Vehicle Product Management at Zurich Switzerland. “Although car manufacturers are constantly upgrading, hackers are constantly finding new security vulnerabilities, just like with computers and cell phones. However, we want to protect our customers from the consequences of this new danger in the best possible way and with foresight.”

Zurich helps if cyber criminals access your vehicle

Just drive off and step on the gas – behind the wheel of my car, I decide where I want to go.

But what if someone else suddenly took control?
A possible theft with the help of hacking is already covered by the partial casco of the motor vehicle insurance. In addition, Zurich has launched the new car insurance supplementary module Cyber Attack. 

This covers the costs if

  • a cyber attack damages or destroys your car software
  • your vehicle becomes unusable as a result of hacking or is restricted in its functions
  • the software or control unit of your car must be restored.

Cyber attacks: Nobody is immune

Bank robberies are a thing of yesterday. Nowadays, anyone who wants to make a lot of money quickly has no need of a crowbar, a gun or a getaway car; all that is required is a good Internet connection, a sharp mind and lots of criminal energy. Hackers are everywhere – and anyone can fall victim to them.

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