Cars Could Be Next Targets for ID Theft

The features in our cars can make it feel like we're living in the future. But the latest automotive technologies can also make us vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.

As LifeLock previously reported, hackers looking to point out security flaws commandeered a car's air conditioner, radio, windshield wipers, accelerator and brakes. All these vehicle functions depend on computer software that can be exploited via the Internet.

The manufacturer recalled more than 1 million cars for software patches after that experiment, although the hackers point out that such vulnerabilities exist in most modern cars. In the past, security experts have hacked into on-board GPS systems to take control of vehicles as well.

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So far these car-hacking incidents haven't been the work of criminals but rather security experts looking to alert manufacturers to problems and present their findings at conferences. However, a new batch of car features may open us up to one of the fastest-growing criminal threats: identity theft.

A variety of automakers are rolling out in-car shopping apps that could make a car into a target for ID thieves.

There are already apps that let drivers make purchases through a linked smartphone--everything from ordering pizza to booking a hotel room. Such technology is relatively new and relies on a smartphone connection to function.

Right now nothing is routed through the car itself. But experts say that in the next two to five years, "buy" buttons connected to bank accounts or credit cards will be a dashboard feature in most cars.

Credit card companies have developed apps that will be released in the next few months that allow automatic purchases from the dashboard. There's also a banking app in the works that will enable drivers to pay bills and check account balances.

In addition to thieves infiltrating these legitimate in-vehicle apps, experts say there's also danger that potential cybercriminals will market their own malicious apps that appear harmless but steal users' personal data.

“When payment systems come online inside of cars, it will be an attack surface that attackers will start looking at and poking at,” cybersecurity expert Ryan Smith told Bloomberg News. “You're going to see the entire spectrum of fraud inside these vehicles.”

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