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Is Your Electric Vehicle Charger a Security Risk?

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People are increasingly interested in owning electric vehicles (EVs). They like the idea of plugging a car into a charging station rather than budgeting for the fluctuating costs of fuel. However, recent research indicates that EV security has some potentially dangerous flaws.

So what's the problem with EV chargers? How can you make sure your electric car is safe?

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What Is an Electric Vehicle?

Few exterior features immediately distinguish an electric vehicle from a gas-powered one. Most of the differences lie under the hood. An EV relies on a battery strategically positioned in the chassis to get the power that runs its electric motors.

Besides having the option to recharge their electric cars at home or at a public charging station, vehicle owners can also recapture power during use through processes such as regenerative braking.

Additionally, some people purchase hybrid vehicles. Those combine traditional motors with electric batteries, letting drivers choose between different operating modes.

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EV Security When Charging

Efforts are underway to make it as convenient as possible for people to recharge EVs. The hope is that as charging point networks become more extensive, greener vehicles will become more attractive as potential purchases. However, cybersecurity researchers warn that security threats exist with popular EV charger brands.

Security Issues With Domestic Chargers

The team at a cybersecurity firm in the United Kingdom examined popular domestic vehicle chargers for a year and a half. The brands they assessed included EVBox, Wallbox, and Hypervolt, and a few others. The results highlighted account hijack vulnerabilities affecting millions of chargers.

The cybersecurity experts discovered that some of the flaws enabled hackers to extract all stored data, including login credentials.

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Additionally, these electric vehicle security shortcomings could allow malicious parties to simultaneously switch all chargers on and off at once, making the power grid unstable.

Researchers Successfully Altered Charging Functionality

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Research published elsewhere described how engineers successfully manipulated how an EV charger worked by simulating a malicious attack. They did so with a lab-built spoofing device made with low-cost hardware and software.

The gadget allowed the team to limit the charging rate, plus overcharge and undercharge the battery. It’s easy to see how those alterations could pose bigger dangers for electric car safety.

Fortunately, the vehicle’s battery management system detected the overcharging simulation and disconnected after detecting the excessive power level. However, the experiments still resulted in the battery incorrectly showing a full charge.

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Will Charging Flaws Decrease Public Interest?

Electric cars provide significant assistance that allows national economies to rebound. Analysts expect China will make up 27 percent of the global economic growth achieved in 2021. The country’s electric car market is not the sole driver of that success, but it’s undoubtedly part of it.

A March 2021 electric vehicle study ranked China as the market leader behind Germany. It also noted that the country would introduce nearly a dozen new EV models (not including hybrids) in the coming months, which indicates an existing demand.

It’s too early to say whether a substantial segment of the public will feel so concerned about the charger security shortcomings and become less interested in owning these vehicles, but it’s doubtful. After all, all activities in life come with risks, and no product is wholly trouble-free.

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Everyday individuals are not the only influencers of electric vehicle security. However, they can take several steps to reduce the threats.

How Can You Increase Electric Car Safety?

Many electric vehicle security flaws related to the chargers are not problems that everyday people could identify. However, you can still do some relatively straightforward things as an electric car owner or driver to stay safe.

Research Charger Brand Security

The team that looked at several charger brands and found problems noted that some companies did not require authorized users to set and use passwords to access a system. Instead, a hacker only needed a charger’s serial number or associated username.

The researchers pointed out that a cybercriminal could orchestrate a brute-force attack to gain access with relative ease.

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Before purchasing a home charger, check the company’s website or contact a representative to find out what processes keep unauthorized users from tampering.

Read Reviews of Public Charging Stations Before Using Them

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It’s also wise to review feedback from fellow users before using a public charging station. That way, if someone says the kiosk failed to charge the vehicle or demonstrated other strange behavior, you’ll know to steer clear.

A website called PlugShare accepts user reviews of stations across the United States. And ChargerHelp! is a start-up developing a mobile app that uses crowdshared information to get malfunctioning stations back in commission sooner. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on over the coming months.

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Keep Your Home Charger Updated

As professionals uncover EV security concerns, they generally inform the affected manufacturer, causing hardware, software, and firmware updates. Stay abreast of any such upgrades and install them promptly.

Check to see if there’s an auto-update feature to activate, particularly for user-facing apps.

Awareness Supports Electric Vehicle Security

Besides keeping these tips in mind, watch for any abnormalities with familiar chargers. Whether they get excessively hot or charge your vehicle slower than usual, those things could indicate security issues.

There’s no real need to think twice before using a charger, but noticing strange behavior and reporting it reduces possible problems for you and others.

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