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Electrical vehicle chargers vulnerable to hacking

Kaspersky Lab finds vulnerabilities in EV chargers that could be used to overload networks

Kaspersky Lab found vulnerabilities in EV chargers that could be used to overload electrical networks.
Kaspersky Lab found vulnerabilities in EV chargers that could be used to overload electrical networks.

Electric vehicles are increasingly popular, but Kaspersky Lab has warned that charging systems may be hacked to cause damage to electrical systems.

Researchers for the security company have discovered that electric vehicle (EV) chargers supplied by a major vendor carry vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyberattackers, and that the consequences of a successful attack could include damage to the home electricity network.

The researchers found that, if compromised, the connected charger could cause a power overload that would take down the network it was connected to, causing both financial impact and, in the worst-case scenario, damaging other devices connected to the network.

The researchers found a way to initiate commands on the charger and 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.

All an attacker needs to do to change the amount of electricity being consumed is obtain Wi-Fi access to the network the charger is connected to. Since the devices are made for domestic use, security for the wireless network is likely to be limited. This means that attackers could gain access easily, for example by bruteforcing all possible password options, which is quite common: according to Kaspersky Lab statistics 94% 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. This, in turn, will allow them to exploit any vulnerabilities and disrupt operations.

All the vulnerabilities found 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. This is why it is very important to look for vulnerabilities, not just in to unresearched 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," said Dmitry Sklyar, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.