Cars are getting more high-tech. You can now buy a car that has Wi-Fi, night vision and can park by itself.
But there’s a growing fear criminals can tap into your car — stealing your data or worse, your entire vehicle.
There are reported experiments involving hackers accessing a car’s internal system and controlling it from a distance. (It is also a plot line in the hit 2017 film "The Fate of the Furious" starring Oscar winner Charlize Theron).
The idea of your car rebelling against you and driving itself is terrifying. But how much should you really be concerned about your car getting hacked?
Is car hacking a threat?
“People need to be cautious, but not paranoid,” said Lynne McChristian, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.
McChristian said as the world becomes more digitally interconnected, the likelihood of hacking attempts will increase. But as carmakers have added new technology to their models, they have also increased the ability for your car to protect itself against carjackers and hackers. McChristian said the likelihood your car will be hacked into is about the same risk that your home will be burglarized.
But, some cars may be more susceptible to break-ins than others.
“I think hacking may be worse with self-driving cars,” said McChristian. “Anything that connects wirelessly, to a central controlling system or the internet — that has vulnerabilities for someone to penetrate and control your car.”
You shouldn’t drive in fear of a hostile car-takeover, however. McChristian said most auto manufacturers were aware of the concerns and actively work to make their cars as “un-hackable as possible.”
Insurance & car hacking
Most car insurance policies cover car hacking the same as a regular break-in, said McChristian.
"You’re not going to be treated differently just because some tech whiz found the ability to break in," she said.
But sometimes a plan only pays up to a specific amount if your car is hacked and stolen. Make sure you read the fine print when looking for coverage. (Policygenius can help you compare auto insurance rates.)
If your car is stolen, report it first to law enforcement. Then file a claim with your insurance company. If your car is not recovered, expect a waiting period of a couple of weeks for the insurance company to confirm the car was actually stolen. Then, you’ll receive a payout.
You can also take measures to protect your car, like installing a GPS monitor or anti-hacking software. Your auto insurance company may give you a discount for installing one of these anti-theft systems. Contact your provider to see if you can score a lower premium.
McChristian said most drivers shouldn’t be that concerned about their car being hacked. It's a “new threat but not prevalent,” she said. Simple measures can protect you from being a target for car hackers.
“Use common sense,” she said. “Make sure your car is secure when you leave it and take your key with you.”