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How to Recognize and Prevent Security System Failure in Your Car

Security systems are valuable tools that can protect cars, homes, and business property from theft and vandalism. Some people wonder how secure they can be, however. What happens if a security system doesn’t work? And what’s more, can your car’s security system be hacked?

There are several ways a car’s security system can malfunction or fail, and part of the issue is that the very system that locks out would-be thieves can also lock you out. With that in mind, here is some information about how automotive security systems work, and how to recognize and prevent system failure.


Security System Failure in Your Car

How can automotive security systems be hacked?

Many people recognize the need for security systems for their property but neglect to include their cars as important property assets. Are security systems for cars worth it, and do security systems affect insurance?

Automotive security systems can provide a lot of protection for your valuable assets, including the car itself, and they can also lower your insurance premiums. However, some aspects of modern cars make them vulnerable to hackers. The fact that modern cars are often just massive, mobile computers means that they can be disabled or attacked.

This means that your security system itself can be a point of weakness. High-end car alarm systems like the Viper alarms can be easily hacked to change the user’s password, for instance.

Hackers can potentially shut off your engine, trigger warning lights, and even disable your breaks. While these might not be the most common or useful forms of hacking—most hackers will want to leave your car intact so they can steal it or your valuable information—this is still obviously a threat.  

For what it’s worth, most hackers will likely be less interested in disabling or harming you or your vehicle as much as they are interested in getting access to the vehicle or your information. However, there is a lot of information they can get from you.

Currently, the automotive aftermarket industry is shifting towards providing more visibility and access to car systems and status to consumers. Vehicle data can be useful to both car consumers and manufacturers, but this information needs to be kept safe and secure. This is especially important for autonomous vehicles, which are becoming more common.

This wealth of information also provides uncomfortable levels of data for hackers. They can find private information about you that can be used to predict your movements, impersonate you, or access more important passwords and information.

Signs of Hacking or System Failure

As with house security systems, car systems often have LED lights that indicate when a security camera is actively being used or taking pictures. If you have a car camera system, the light being on is a sign it’s being activated.

If you have any passwords that you use to access your system that have been changed without your knowledge, that could also be a sign of hacking.

If your car uses any type of onboard computerized or Bluetooth connections, consider it a target for hacking. Anything that can connect remotely to other systems or the internet, even if it just connects to your fob, can be a weakness.

There are also some signs of system failure that could be caused simply by malfunctions as well as by hacks. For instance, if your car won’t start, if the system kills your ignition while driving, or if the alarm goes off for no reason and you can’t turn it off, this could be a sign your security system is malfunctioning, or worse.

Finally, sometimes your alarm system will go off without stopping if your battery levels are low. Use a multimeter to check your battery and see if it’s too low. If that isn’t causing the issue, it may also be caused by a remote key fob that is triggering a false signal.

What should I do if my security system is compromised?

New business models based on innovative technologies are boosting the expense and expectation of vehicles, which in turn makes them more valuable and costly to replace if stolen. Consumers likely want to get their car’s system back in working order if it is hacked or malfunctions, but this can be difficult.

Anti-theft systems are often made specifically so that they can’t easily be reset, which means once they have a flaw, the only entities that can fix them are car dealers and certified repair outlets. 

If you suspect your car system’s malfunction has more to do with hacking than regular maintenance issues, contact your car’s manufacturer to see if there have been any recalls, and be sure to take your car to a trusted mechanic (or have it towed there).

How to Prevent Car Security System Failure

First, you want to make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. Keep up with the manufacturer so you can know if there are any security issues or recalls.

Limit the amount of information you give your car access to. Don’t program your home address into the GPS or leave your passwords in your vehicle. Don’t download apps or use your car’s web driver, and limit all remote or wireless access to your car. 

Keep on top of your security system, and think about switching back to using good old-fashioned keys instead of wireless remote fobs and other access devices.

Keep your car maintained well, and make sure that your auto shop is reputable. Anyone who has access to your car physically has much more ability to disturb your security system. A disreputable mechanic can even make your car give off alerts that indicate it needs more work than it really does.

Make sure you know what data your car is harvesting and collecting, such as driving data and location history. The more you know, the more you will be prepared and able to protect yourself.

To prevent security system failure in your car, make sure that you know what it is and isn’t supposed to be doing, where data is and isn’t going, and how easy it can be accessed by people remotely. In addition, remember that anything that prevents thieves from using your vehicle can also prevent you from using it.

Drive safely, and remember to practice digital security.

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