Auto Insurance Trackers: The Unknown Risk

car insurance safetyYou signed up online for car insurance with an insurance carrier that offers the potential of lower rates upon using their tracker.  Your rates are good, but, you wonder if maybe they could be better if you used this tracker, even though it won’t change your auto glass rates.  You don’t know much about it, but decide to try it anyway to see if you can get your rates to go any lower.  What you really don’t know is that this tracker has the potential to give hackers a remote way into your car.

Computer security experts say that there is research to support claims that, in some cases, hackers can use a simple text message to disable the car’s brakes.  Although the researchers only conducted testing on one type of device, it still begs questions about all of these types of car insurance trackers.
Nearly every car in operation now has a computer port inside.  This can generally be found underneath the steering column.  It is used to access the computer networks within the car, with the intention of mechanics being able to identify problems.  The information that can be gleaned through this port is valuable to your insurance company, as it shows how and when your car accelerates, brakes, or steers.
What users of these trackers may not know is that the device uses the same cellular network as mobile phones do, so that it can receive text messages.  At the University of California, San Diego, student engineers discovered that if a specially coded text message was sent to this tracking device, the car’s breaks could be engaged remotely, and even completely disabled.  The only good news is that this experiment only seemed to work when the car was going about 5mph.  However, even more worrisome, is that the device is allowed access to the car’s internal controls.  This means your specific car can be located by the device’s IP address or phone number.

Thankfully, these types of attacks have not been seen in real life.  Lawmakers are now looking at ways to prevent them before they happen.

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