Woburn, MA – December 13, 2018 – Kaspersky Lab experts have discovered that electric vehicle chargers supplied by a major vendor carry vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber-attackers, and the consequences of a successful attack could include damage to the home electricity network. While modern electric vehicles are tested constantly for vulnerabilities, this research reveals that some of their essential accessories, such as battery chargers, may remain at risk.
Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, as their development makes a vital contribution to environmental sustainability. In some regions, public and private charging points are now commonplace. In light of this growing usage, Kaspersky Lab researchers decided to investigate the security of widely available domestic electric vehicle chargers that include a remote access feature.
The researchers found a way to initiate commands on the charger, to either stop the charging processor or set it to the maximum current possible. While the first option would only prevent a person from using the car, the second one could potentially cause the wires to overheat on a device that is not protected by a trip fuse. If compromised, the connected charger could therefore cause a power overload that would take down the network to which it was connected. This could result in significant financial impact and, in the worst-case scenario, damage to other devices connected to the network.
To change the amount of electricity being consumed, all that an attacker would need to do is obtain access to the Wi-Fi network that the charger is connected to. Since the devices are designed for home users, security for the wireless network is likely to be limited. This means that attackers could easily gain access, for example, by bruteforcing all possible password options – a common method of attack. According to Kaspersky Lab statistics, 94 percent of attacks on IoT in 2018 came from Telnet and SSH password bruteforcing. Once inside the wireless network, the intruders can easily find the charger’s IP address, which, in turn, will allow them to exploit any vulnerabilities and disrupt operations.
All the vulnerabilities discovered by Kaspersky Lab researchers were reported to the vendor and have now been patched.
“People often forget that in a targeted attack, cybercriminals always look for the least-obvious elements to compromise, in order to remain unnoticed,” said Dmitry Sklyar, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “This is why it is very important to look for vulnerabilities, not just in technical innovations, but also in their accessories – they are usually a coveted prize for threat actors. As we have shown, vendors should be extra careful with connected vehicle devices, and initiate bug-bounties or ask cybersecurity experts to check their devices. In this case, we were fortunate to have a positive response and a rapid patch of the devices, which helped to prevent potential attacks.”
To protect your smart devices, including electric vehicle accessories, Kaspersky Lab recommends the following security measures:
For more information on the electric vehicle charger vulnerabilities discovered by Kaspersky Lab, read the full report on Securelist.com.
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