Can Your Caterpillar ECU Get Hacked? Tips for Keeping Your Vehicle Safe

 

These days, if someone wants to take control of your vehicle, there's no need to smash a window or slash your tires.

Instead, they can engage in car hacking.

While the rise of autonomous cars might bring with it added excitement, safety features, and convenience, these high-tech vehicles will also put you at an increased risk of being taken advantage of by a hacker.

One of the most common ways your vehicle can be controlled? Though your Caterpillar ECU.

The good news?

There are lots of ways that you can protect yourself.

Read on to learn how to ensure that only you are operating your vehicle.

Understanding ECUs

Before we go any further in our discussion of how you can best protect your Caterpillar ECU, let's first discuss exactly what an ECU is.

ECU is short for "electronic control unit," and it's essentially a computer chip/system that controls your vehicle. There are lots of different kinds of ECUs, including engine control, brake control, suspension control, and much more.

There are also ECUs that can control your car door, your power steering capabilities, and even your powertrain control.

In a nutshell, you should think of this in the plainest possible terms as several different computer systems that allow you to electronically control your car and the various systems within it.

Of course, like any computer, your Caterpillar ECU can also be hacked.

In fact, experts can make vehicle hacking with tools that total under $30.00.

While the recent surge in car technology and electronic has certainly made it more convenient for drivers of all types of vehicles to get around, this convenience doesn't come without risk.

Now, let's take a look at some of the most popular methods of car hacking.

Car Hacking: The Basics

Believe it or not, car hacking can happen in more ways than you might initially think.

First of all, your car's onboard diagnostics are pretty much a goldmine for hackers.

The OBD connects to a CAN bus, which makes taking control easy. Usually, once a hacker connects a laptop, a cell phone, or even some sort of tablet to the CAN bus!

They can do a whole lot of damage, including messing with your car's locking mechanisms, your steering capabilities, and even your vehicle's brakes.

Though it's tough for a hacker to get control of the OBD port and CAN bus, it can happen once they get underneath the dashboard on and the steering wheel.

In short, always make sure you're only letting people you know and trust drive your car.

More About Car Hacking Techniques

Additionally, your vehicle's keys, especially if they contain tech-savvy automatic locking systems or are smart keys, can also be hacked into.

A hacker can take control of the keys by trapping the signal it sends to your car's locking mechanisms. This means that, once they have that signal, they can use it to unlock your car -- no matter where you actually are.

Your Bluetooth system is also a popular method of car hacking. This allows hackers to steal your data in addition to controlling your car, so it's an incredibly serious issue.

And if you can use your car as a hotspot for data and wireless access?

You can be certain that hackers will love taking advantage of an unsecured connection.

Vehicle hacking can even take place within the apps you have on your smartphone. This is especially possible if you've installed an app that the car makers have created to help you to turn on your car's engine, lock your doors, or even fiddle with the radio.

Plus, this also means that you'll end up putting the personal data and information (not to mention, private messages) that you store on your smartphone at risk.

How to Stop Caterpillar ECU and Car Hacking

Now that you have a better understanding of what exactly car hacking is, and the many ways in which your car can be compromised?

Let's move on to talking about what you can do to protect yourself, your data, and above all, the people in your car with you.

1. Turn Your Bluetooth off

As we mentioned earlier in this post, your Bluetooth system is one of the most popular ways that car hackers can gain control of your car.

Whenever your Bluetooth system isn't in use, we strongly suggest that you turn it off. This means that you'll need to turn it off on your mobile devices and your actual vehicle's system.

If possible, you should also attempt to block any automatic Bluetooth connections from starting up when you turn your car's engine on.

The same goes for any other music apps that you have installed on your smartphone. If at all possible, make sure that they are password protected.

At the end of the day, you can always turn on the radio and have some oldies accompany you on your next car ride!

2. Always Have a WiFi Password

We know that you likely won't be able to resist the convenience of having your car serve as a WiFi hotspot.

However, if you want to prevent car hacking, then you absolutely need to password protect your WiFi network.

Make it a point to share this password with as few people as possible, and ensure you've picked a password that's not easy for people to guess.

To be on the safe side, we suggest choosing a combination of letters, numbers, capitalizations, and even special characters. If you're truly serious about protecting your car from hacking, you should change that password about once every month to two months.

Above all, never leave your password written somewhere in your car.

You'd think that this would be common knowledge, but we're always surprised by the number of people that do it.

In addition to always having a WiFi passcode, make sure you have one on your smartphone, as well. Never give it out to anyone, and change it just as often as you do your Wifi network password.

3. Keep Your Software Up-To-Date

We know -- you don't like updating the software in your office or on your home computer, and you're pretty sure that you're not going to enjoy updating the embedded software in your car, either.

However, this minor inconvenience definitely pales in comparison to what could happen to you if your ECU systems end up getting hacked into.

In most cases, in order to completely and safely update the firmware in your car, you'll need to take it to your dealership.

This is the best way to ensure that any bugs, data risks, or any security threats that you might not even know exist are taken care of.

You can also try to download your car update software on your own, from the car manufacturer's website.

Be very aware, however, that if you choose to download this software from anywhere else on the Internet, you're opening up your Caterpillar ECU and all of the other ECU systems in your car to hackers.

In the future, many smart car manufacturers want to be able to allow you to update your software automatically, without the need to take it to a dealership.

In the meantime, however, make sure you always make updates as soon as possible.

In addition to taking the time to update your car's software, it's also essential that you update any apps that you use to connect with your car. This won't just help things run more efficiently, it will also guard against new hacking techniques.

Always make sure that you've password protected any apps that can turn on your car!

4. Protect Your Smart Key

You've likely heard of special kinds of wallets that will protect your passports and even your credit cards when you travel.

These wallets work by blocking the technology that hackers so often use to read the strips on the backs of your credit cards.

Just like you protect your plastic when you travel, you also need to protect your smart key.

Remember, experienced car hackers don't have to be especially close to your key in order to gain control of it. Their technology allows them to steal your smart key's signal from more than 100 feet away.

This means that they can walk outside your home, and if your car keys are within 100 feet or so of where they're standing, they could steal the signal and walk away with your car.

This is certainly a scenario you want to work to prevent.

Funnily enough, the solution is a lot simpler than you might think.

All you need to do is store your smart key in a metal box whenever it's not in use. If you want to take things to the next level, then you can buy a wallet or case that has the technology to prevent your signal from being hacked.

Of course, if all else fails, you can always stop parking your car in your driveway. If hackers can't get to your car, even if they can steal your signal, they won't be able to drive away with it.

5. Continue to Do Your Research

If you're serious about protecting your car ECU programming, then it's important that you stay as up to date as you can with information from your vehicle's manufacturer.

We suggest setting up Google alerts in order to remain aware of any potential recalls or new safety and security threats.

Websites like this one allow you to type in the make and model of your car, and immediately find out if what you're driving is currently at any kind of a risk.

Plus, they'll also likely let you know when your car's software is due for any kind of an update. They'll also alert you to more recent security risks and potential threats that you might not know about.

Remember, hackers are getting more and more sophisticated every day.

So should the way you protect your ECU.

6. Watch What You Plug In

What's another important thing to keep in mind when you want to prevent car hacking from happening to your vehicle?

You need to make sure that you always know exactly what you're plugging into your car.

That unfamiliar UBS key that somehow showed up in your car a few days ago? The smartphone of your friend's random cousin that you've never met?

None of those things should ever be plugged into your vehicle's dashboard.

Essentially, if you're not sure what a device does, where it came from, or even if you don't know much about the person who gave it to you, it's always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Protect your Caterpillar ECU with these Tips

We hope that this post has helped you to have a better understanding of how you can protect your Caterpillar ECU and avoid vehicle hacking altogether.

Remember, it's all about staying informed through your manufacturer, knowing exactly what you're plugging into your car, and always updating your software.

Make sure that you continue to do research to avoid being taken advantage of.

Of course, it's also essential that you buy high-quality, tested, and guaranteed ECM and ECU systems in the first place.

That's where we want to be able to help you.

Spend some time on our website to learn more about how our products will keep your system secure and functioning at the highest possible level.

When you're ready, reach out to us to have any questions you have answered right away.

Posted On: 24/05/2018

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