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Most cars are vulnerable to hacking or privacy intrusions

All a hacker needs to be able to break into your car is an iPad. This, according to a report which was recently released by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA). What’s more, car companies are doing very little to protect you.

Most cars now comprise more than 50 separate electronic control units collecting vehicle data and improving performance. Nearly all cars have wireless entry points that could act as a gateway for hackers. Almost all the cars on the market today are therefore vulnerable to “hacking or privacy intrusions”, Senator Markey said in a hearing.

The senator’s investigation of 50 top car manufacturers – including BMW, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford – found their treatment and protection of such potentially sensitive technology and information to be “alarmingly inconsistent and incomplete”.

According to Senator Markey, nearly 100% of cars on the market include wireless technologies that could pose vulnerabilities to hacking or privacy intrusions, while most automobile manufacturers are unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents.

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The senator also said security measures to prevent remote access to vehicle electronics are inconsistent and haphazard across all automobile manufacturers. Furthermore, manufacturers are collecting large amounts of data on driving history and vehicle performance and distributing it to third parties, giving little information on how the data is used, how it is stored or for how long.

The senator from Massachusetts also said customers are often not explicitly made aware of data collection and. Also, when they are, they often cannot opt out without disabling valuable features, such as navigation (for instance, built-in GPS).

According to the Guardian, last November two auto manufacturing trade groups, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, released a joint statement setting out voluntary privacy protection principles for the industry. Among the suggestions was a call for automakers to collect information “only as needed for legitimate business purposes”.

Senator Markey said the protections fell short in a number of key areas by not offering explicit assurances of choice and transparency.