Could EV remote control features be a security risk?

electric car

There are 2,442,270 electric vehicles, or EVs for short, registered in the United States as of 2024. With the electric vehicle market estimated to sit around $49.1 billion in 2023, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see more and more of these vehicles on the roads nowadays. EVs are all the rage, but one of the latest advertised features, “remote control,” is starting to raise some questions.

Auto theft is on the rise, and thieves are becoming more successful in leveraging certain aspects of cars as more and more manufacturers start to offer more interesting “perks.” Let’s explore how EV remote control features could be a potential security risk.

How does remote control work?

Many electric vehicles today can be controlled remotely by using mobile applications or web-based systems. This allows the owners of EVs to perform a variety of tasks, from maintenance and assessing battery life to even monitoring the status of a vehicle’s charging, adjusting temperature, and locating the vehicle on a map. These features have greatly improved as newer models roll out, adding on additional hardware and software to improve user experience greatly.

Tesla is one such vehicle that offers remote control. Here’s an overview of what the system entails:

  • Locking and unlocking vehicles
  • Enabling or disabling AC and heating, as well as monitoring cabin climate
  • Checking vehicle’s charging status
  • Viewing vehicle’s estimated driving range
  • Opening the front trunk
  • Opening or closing the charging port
  • Seeing where the vehicle is located
  • View the vehicle’s VIN and current software
  • Flash lights/honk horn to find where car is parked
  • Park and retrieve the vehicle using the “Summon” feature

Electric vehicle safety features

Most electric vehicles, like Tesla, feature numerous security features to prevent or reduce the risk of auto theft. For example, Tesla features a Security tab on its mobile app which enables drivers to:

  • Pair their phones to the vehicle
  • Enable and disable autopilot and autopark modes
  • Enable notifications that trigger when the vehicle’s driving speed is within 5km/h of the maximum selected speed. You can disable or enable this mode as well

Although these modes may help reduce your odds of theft, they don’t prevent your chances altogether. Electric vehicles may be the most at risk due to their luxury appeal and high value. We recommend investigating aftermarket products to buff your security. Some products may even qualify you for a discount on your auto insurance!

How is remote connectivity a security risk?

For any vehicle that has remote connectivity and a computer chip, there’s a vulnerable point. In today’s tech-powered world, car thieves need to think beyond the old-school “bash in the window” in order to steal cars, and that’s just what they’ve done. Modern hackers have found EVs to be particularly vulnerable.

Connectivity features using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular networks are the number one way hackers access electric vehicles. Even having a remote starter can serve as an entryway for hackers to gain access to your vehicle (and this applies to gas-powered vehicles, too!)

Another prominent vulnerability for EV security is public charging stations. The United States alone is home to well over 60,000 public charging stations, a majority of which are connected devices. These devices are, unfortunately, prone to being hacked as well and can be an entryway for thieves to steal away with electric vehicles – especially those that are left unattended by the owner. Public charging stations are also a vulnerability when it comes to identity theft, as to use these stations you’ll need to use an app or frequency ID card which houses IP addresses, network info, and location data. Hackers can manipulate this data and use it for personal gain.

Most vulnerable vehicles

The list of most commonly stolen vehicles changes each year based on statistics and trends. However, statistics aside, these vehicle manufacturers were found to house the most vulnerabilities:

  • Hyundai
  • Acura
  • BMW
  • Ford
  • Ferrari
  • Genesis
  • Infiniti
  • Kia
  • Jaguar
  • Land Rover
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Porsche
  • Rolls Royce
  • Toyota
  • Nissan

How do you protect your electric vehicle?

There’s still a ton of work for manufacturers to do in order to protect electric vehicles against thieves. Remote control features are a great addition to have and enjoy for ease of access and convenience, but they do pose a serious risk as of where they’re at right now. Here are some ways you can reduce the risk of your EV (or any vehicle) getting stolen or hacked:

  • Consider using an at-home charging station as opposed to a public one. If you need to use a public station, choose a busier location where your car is more in the “public eye.”
  • Install a traditional anti-theft device that locks to your steering wheel. As old-school as these might be, they’re still a true and tried means of deterring thieves.
  • Avoid or limit the use of third-party apps that connect to your vehicle.
  • Always install the latest patch or software update from your vehicle’s manufacturer.
  • Park your car in a secure location, such as in a garage or private driveway.

For additional questions about protecting EVs or to talk about insuring an EV, give AHI Group a call.