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Car Hacking Tops List of 2016 Cybersecurity Threats

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's not just computers that are vulnerable to hacking. According to McAfee Labs' 2016 Threats Prediction report, our dystopian near-future will see rapid increases in hacked wearables, p0wned critical infrastructure, and, yes, cyber attacks on your cars.

Get ready to add car hacking to your list of cybersecurity issues to know.

Piratica Ex Machina

Think of it as Christine, the 1983 Steven King novel where a Plymouth Fury is taken over by blood thirsty supernatural powers -- except the year is 2016 and it's some punk kid whose taken over your car. Cyber attacks on automobiles "will increase rapidly in 2016 due to the rapid increase in connected automobile hardware built without foundational security principles," according to the report.

Internet-connected autos and "poorly secured driverless cars and smart highways" will likely result in lost in the coming years lives, McAfee Labs claim. (And some groundbreaking lawsuits, too.)

We may have already seen the beginning. In August, white hat hacker Sam Kamkar discovered that a vulnerability in General Motor's OnStar devices that allowed him to take easily hijack the system. The security breach, which was quickly fixed after it was revealed, didn't allow Kamkar to drive the car off a cliff, but it did allow him unlock and remote start the vehicle. As web-enabled technology becomes more essential to cars in the future, the power of hackers to exploit software vulnerabilities could increase exponentially.

A Hacked Car Sounds Good in Comparison

Car hacking wasn't the only cyber security trend McAffee Labs identified. Perhaps most worrisome are increases of attacks on critical infrastructure, such as the Stuxnet worm that was used to destroy Iranian and North Korean infrastructure. Forty-eight percent of respondents representing critical infrastructure organizations believe that it is likely or extremely likely an attack will "take down critical infrastructure and cause loos of human life" within three years, according to the report.

Other, less nightmare-inducing threats expected to increase in the upcoming years include ransomware, which holds you devices hostage until payment is made, attacks on cloud services, and good, old-fashioned, state-sponsored cyber espionage. It's enough to make you update your firm's security software -- and reconsider your next smart car purchase.

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