Automakers offer a remote starting feature for those who dread getting into a cold car and having to wait for it to warm up before they can leave. Third-party developers also offer a remote system for starting a vehicle in an older car without it built in. With the push of a button on a special key fob, we’re able to get that vehicle running without having to brave the cold until the car warms up enough to drive.
Nowadays, however, the button isn’t from a key fob, but an app we press on the touchscreen of our phones. These apps are convenient, but are they safe?
What’s the fuss with the remote start apps?
Auto manufacturers continually upgrade cars to offer features that make driving easier and fun. Keyless entry isn’t a new concept, but the devices used to enter a vehicle continues to improve.
Smartphones have access to hundreds of apps that can make many of our daily tasks easier to perform. So, it’s no surprise that remote starting apps exist and that they’re becoming more popular every day. The appeal of these apps lies with the ability to start a car from a greater distance than an infrared key fob would be able to do.
For example, with WiFi-capabilities, a smartphone could start your car while you’re landing at an airport. By the time you get through luggage check and to your car, it’s ready for you to drive home on a cold-weather day.
A key fob would only work when you’re within a certain distance, like the exit doors. You would either have to wait in the car while it warmed up, or sit in the airport until 10-15 minutes had passed by.
Also, most of us have our smartphones handy at all times. So it’s quicker to just open the app and start your car instead of rummaging around in your bag to find the key fob. All that seems great, so why aren’t all remote starting systems allowing for phone access? Well, not all systems are as trustworthy as we’d like.
Apps, like MyCar, are vulnerable to hacking
According to Wired.com, a software engineer, or security hacker, found vulnerabilities within remote start apps, like MyCar. The codes he identified might make thousands of vehicles susceptible to nefarious hackers or pranksters.
At a DefCon hacker conference last month, the engineer explained the flaws he found earlier this year, within the MyCar’s radio-based systems. While he was careful not to access any private information himself, a thief might easily scan a back-end database and gain all the information needed to steal any car anywhere he wanted to. MyCar has since fixed those issues, but we know when dealing with anything using internet services, nobody can call themselves 100% safe.
Car thefts by tech thieves have been going on for a couple of years, but as technology improves, so does the thieving activity. Smartphone apps are just another way to gain access to a car without physically breaking into it.
However, as this hacking engineer explains, that may just be the least of your worries. What has us concerned are the other dangers these vulnerabilities put us in.
The dangers that remote start apps, like MyCar, can cause
The internet opens us up to all kinds of malicious software that can easily implant into any app your smartphone has. Without proper security, these apps could allow someone, with bad intentions, to gain access to any information stored within them.
A remote start system application is no different. If the company hasn’t done all, it can to ensure you and your car are safe, then you’re in trouble. Hackers can do a number of things to your car, but there are two that could cause the most damage.
Passwords, credit card numbers, and even banking information are vulnerable to a hacker which could leave you with an empty bank account or a stolen identity. Worse yet, imagine having a hacker starting your car while it sits in your closed garage. Without knowing it, you’re at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning or possibly death.
Remote start apps still have their benefits. But, you want to make sure the one you have installed is backed by a company that diligently monitors for any possible vulnerable attacks. You shouldn’t have to worry about theft or death because you want the convenience of remote starting from your phone.