How to Avoid Car Theft

 

Every year, nearly 1.5 lakh vehicles are stolen in India alone. Out of these, only about few thousand are actually traced back, but often in un-roadworthy conditions, with many missing components. In the year 2014, a vehicle was stolen every 24minutes in India. Thieves have never been this efficient before, and your car/bike is more unsafe than ever. While the vehicle theft rate has skyrocketed, the auto industry still lacks the anti-theft technologies and enforcing bodies to safeguard the vehicles from thefts. If you want to prevent a car thief taking a joy ride in your precious vehicle, you need to take the required steps to avoid car theft.

How to Avoid Car Theft

 

Park in a safe place:

It’s given that a vehicle parked in a well illuminated, guarded and monitored spot is a lot less likely to be stolen. One should pay extra attention to the location, vicinity and environment when parking. Whenever you park your car, try and find somewhere that’s well-lit. A well-lit, closely guarded and spots under the local surveillance should always be preferred over shady and remote places. Don’t hesitate to spend a little for monitored parking lots with security guards. It assures guarding eyes for your vehicle in your absence. If you have to park the vehicle on the streets, opt for somewhere close to shops or somewhere closer to security cameras, for the thieves are more likely to be aware of the places to avoid stealing a vehicle from. If you can, park the car under a street lamp, even during the day - if your car’s left there longer than expected, it’ll be lit when darkness falls. Try to park in a well-packed area of the parking lot. Park the vehicle little further from the exits of parking lots, since thieves will likely have a faster getaway compared to a vehicle parked in a well surrounded zone.

Invest in the Security Systems:

When buying a car, do tick on the options of safety and security features like Engine Immobiliser, security alarm, central locking and GPS tracking. These devices go a long way towards car theft prevention. The Immobiliser is an electronic security device fitted in a car that prevents the engine from running unless the correct key is present. This prevents the car from being "hotwired" even if the thief enters the vehicle thus prevent vehicle theft. It would be helpful to have a security alarm system professionally installed in your car. Loud alarms will frighten car thieve, and some systems can be programmed to notify you or alert the police if your car has been tampered with. And even if the misfortune happens, a GPS tracking system can help signal the vehicle’s location to the police and help them recover the car sooner and minimise the damage to the vehicle. There is nothing like a gear or steering lock to deter thieves from driving away with your car even if they manage to get inside and start the engine. These measures will increase the amount time a car thief will need to get away with your vehicle, which increases the likelihood of him leaving your pride and joy alone. Such devices are well worth an investment.

Don’t leave valuables inside the car:

Never leave valuables like laptops, bags/briefcases, purses/wallets or cell or any other high-value item clearly visible area of your car. Use the car's glovebox or boot to stow the valuables as they can be an eye candy for the thief. Once the thief smashed a window to for the valuables, he might just decide to go all the way and take your car. Also, avoid leaving important documents inside the vehicle. Expensive satnav, entertainment screens and expensive accessories are the obvious attractions. So prevent your car being a thief magnet and avoid leaving any valuables inside.

Drive your car often:

A car is meant to be driven around. The pride and joy will go to places and yet is left to rot in the same place for days unattended. The preying eyes are likely to fall on them inevitably. A car lying at the same spot for many days is more likely to be taken for granted by the owner and assumed unwanted by the thieves. The rotting car is junkyard treasure for the thieves and therefore one must take a proper care and maintenance of the car. A well-maintained and well-used vehicle is passed by the auto thieves for easier victims.

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IoT Security in the Auto Industry

When we consider the Internet of Things (IoT) in the automobile market, most of us will think about the connected car or the Google car. Today, these benefits are consumer orientated and provide basic convenience, maintenance and safety functions. In the future, especially with the ongoing development and testing of the self-driving Google car, our entire experience with how we interact with our cars will be revolutionized. Someday, we may just all be passengers where vehicles communicate with one another, to maximize safety and optimize efficiency to get us from point A to point B.

If we then mention security, the 60 minutes piece that aired in 2015 about hacking the internet-connected Jeep most likely will be top of mind. Was it sensational? Sure, but it did highlight a potential critical flaw and security vulnerability that resulted in 1.4 million vehicles being recalled. Additionally, car manufacturers are increasingly marketing their connected features from onboard Wi-Fi, to mobile apps that control the locks and even start vehicles. In these cases, the novelty of these “cool” features often outweigh the negative impacts. So what happens when the consumer’s phone is stolen? Are there appropriate security and authentication measures in place to ensure their car is then not stolen as well? These are all things to think about.

Should we as consumers be concerned? Maybe, maybe not, as it may still be too early for these issues to turn into an epidemic. However, we should start becoming more aware of these connected features and how they can impact us, both positively and negatively. Security will need to be addressed especially as more vehicles offer internet-connected features. Our safety and the privacy of our personal information and property will depend upon it.

New Risks Facing Auto Manufacturers

For now, the people who should be really concerned about these vulnerabilities are the auto manufacturers. Negative high-profile news like the 60 minutes piece can be quite damaging to their brands and reputation. Additionally, these vulnerabilities put consumer safety at risk and significantly drive the cost of warranty replacements up when repairs are needed on potentially more than a million vehicles. Nobody wants to be associated with a story such as that and have to deal with expensive reputation repair and resulting financial losses. Fiat Chrysler has had to do a lot of damage control, including an extensive and costly recall of their vehicles. Now, if something tragic had resulted from this, the damage could have been unrepairable and affected whether the manufacturer would be able to stay in business or not.

But, issues like this may just be the tip of the iceberg of security concerns for car manufacturers. While hacking a vehicle and taking control over some of its functions gets the media attention, what happens during the engineering and manufacturing stages could be the most critical. Here are a couple of examples…

Security Concerns on the Manufacturing Floor

The automobile manufacturing process needs to be very precise and meet the highest quality standards to put a car on the road. The safety of everyone on the road depends upon the quality of vehicles being manufactured and sold. The manufacturing process is now very automated (almost fully). To further optimize the process, manufacturing facilities and the equipment are being interconnected to share and analyze important data. This is Industrial IoT (IIoT). What can be done with this data can be very powerful and potentially save manufacturers millions of dollars. However, connecting this equipment does open new vulnerabilities, which can put the manufacturer, its employees and consumers at risk.

If a malicious attack is successful at compromising a piece of manufacturing equipment or software service, serious issues can occur. If a hacker is able to gain access to a sensor that monitors the operating temperature of a piece of manufacturing equipment, how could that potentially affect the safety of the employees? Now, what if an attack is successful at making a simple modification to the software that instructs a piece equipment as to how many bolts it installs to brace the framing of the car in the assembly process? How would that impact the safety of the consumer? It’s these behind-the-scenes IIoT security scenarios that must be addressed before they become the next sensational news story.

Ensuring Firmware Integrity

Now that cars have basically become computer processors on wheels, there is a significant amount of software and firmware on board that controls many of the vehicle’s functions. The initial install of this software and firmware is carried out during the manufacturing process and generally conducted in a controlled environment. However, as the vehicle hits the road and ages, it’s inevitable that there will be software and firmware upgrades. These upgrades could be performed by certified dealers or any mechanic that has access to the vehicle. How do you know that right software or firmware is being installed in your car? You probably have no clue and your mechanic may not know either. However, if the software/firmware was signed, the integrity can be validated and ensure that only the proper updates are made and malicious software, or firmware is not installed in your vehicle.

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