One of my favorite story tropes is where the main character is magically transported back in time, enabling them to use their “modern-day” scientific knowledge to appear powerful and gain advantage over the relatively primitive denizens of their new surroundings. The most famous, well-known example would be the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, but this idea appears throughout literature and film as far back as 1889 in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I’m also known to repeatedly quote Arthur C. Clarke (who also used this trope in his seminal work Childhood’s End), “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
It’s not magic but it might as well be
The information security industry is currently abuzz with quantum computing talk, particularly so because of President Biden signing into law the “Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act” at the close of 2022 which instructs government agencies to begin preparing their security to withstand quantum-computing powered encrypting breaking tools. For most of us, quantum computing sounds like something you would read about in a Clarke novel, and if you try to get into the details, it might as well be sorcery. The second line of the Wikipedia article literally states:
Classical physics cannot explain the operation of these quantum devices…Quantum computing – Wikipedia
And there are probably very few of us who could even begin to explain how today’s computers work, let alone one powered by quantum physics. Knowledge is power, and we are increasingly at the mercy of devices that are essentially magical to us, and more so to the ones that control the knowledge and technology that powers them. This is particularly relevant with regards to the vast amount of valuable data locked in LastPass’s stolen but encrypted data vaults. If I could tie it to another famous movie trope, imagine bank robbers attempting to crack a massive, steel vault with a fancy laser drill while counting down the seconds until the lock is drilled through. Substitute quantum computing for the drill, and hackers for the bank robbers, and you have today’s unfolding scenario: an escalating technology arms race that requires federal laws to be passed and a select few wizards anointed to make sure we are kept safe. Wizards are traditionally feared and respected in fiction for good reason, and as in Baum’s famous tale, not necessarily always operating with everyone’s best interests in mind. Does it require you to understand quantum computing, to become a wizard, just to keep yourself safe? No, but keep your eyes on the wizards (and their handlers – kings, presidents, lawmakers, etc.) to make sure they wield their power ethically and safely.
Image generated by deepai.org based on the single word “Wizard”
If you were confused about what exactly was stolen in 2022’s LastPass breach – join the club. I think much of the confusion is stemming from the damage control LastPass is attempting to do around their massive data exposure that happened in August and was revealed to the public in December. We know that much of the info that was stolen was unencrypted – login names, email addresses, URLs, etc. and there was some debate as to whether or not the hackers stole encrypted data that contained actual passwords. I’ve had several folks tell me point blank that the passwords weren’t exposed and that LastPass is still safe. Well, guess what – we can put that misconception to bed now. LastPass has dropped another bombshell – one of their devs got hacked and the hackers used the dev’s compromised home computer to gain access to LastPass’s Amazon secure cloud storage to steal the encrypted password vaults of 30 million customers.
What this means for you
There’s a whole lot of gobbledy-gook in the LastPass release – it reads like technical explanations filtered through an army of lawyers and PR flacks (because it was), and beats around the bush on the most important part: LastPass is confirming that Hackers have exfiltrated everyone’s encrypted password vaults – and as I have been warning you about since I learned about this – it is only a matter of time before someone brute-forces their way into someone’s encrypted vault and is rewarded with the password trove within. And they have all the time in the world to do this, which means you have much less time to change any passwords that were stored in LastPass. Hackers will target high-value password vaults first – they will look for ones that have lots of bank account logins or other potentially lucrative access points, but you can bet they will put computers to grinding out every single vault, big or small – because they can, and they have the resources to make this investment pay off.
Stop reading. Go change your passwords.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
It’s hard to be witty about something you despise with every ounce of your soul, so I’m not going to even try. Do whatever it takes to make sure your less savvy family members know how to identify and ignore the absolute deluge of scam emails and phone calls people have been getting this year. You can help by pointing out the patterns they use, which will hopefully lead them to recognize the patterns and the methods these criminals will use to scam them. At minimum, it will help instill a healthy skepticism which is an essential foundation for being secure in today’s internet-soaked society.
What to watch for
A very common scenario involves the target receiving an email letting them know either that the moderately expensive product they ordered or subscribed to is in danger of not being delivered because of a payment issue. They are hoping that their target is actually a user of this product and will call to make sure the purchase isn’t in jeopardy, or call to cancel, thinking either they forgot to cancel it previously, or somehow mistakenly ordered it (also not difficult to do for real, unfortunately – another despicable marketing tact used by every major technology platform).
It is distinctly possible that you might actually receive a legitimate email from any of the scapegoat products scammers are using, but where they will differ will be in how they attempt to solve “the problem”. The scammers top priority is to get their target on the phone and their primary objectives are fairly obvious – they want access to your PC, or they attempt to get various payment methods identified to make sure your “purchase” is completed. Most obvious is when they insist on getting access to a payment platform that is tied directly to a bank account, whether it be Venmo, Gazelle or your bank’s actual mobile app. As a rule of thumb, unless the person on the other end of the line is someone you know and trust, you should never grant someone access to your PC, or even consent to installing software on your computer or phone. Full stop, no exceptions. If there is ever any doubt or suspicion, stop what you are doing and get a second opinion from a trusted expert.
If you or they have received an email from a recognized brand but are unsure of whether it is a legitimate notification and don’t have ready access to an IT or security professional, pick up the phone and call a known, good phone number for the company, or at minimum, go to the brand’s website typing in the website address directly into the URL field. DO NOT USE SEARCH UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW TO SPOT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADVERTISEMENTS AND SEARCH RESULTS. Teach yourself and everyone around you how to go directly to a website by typing in the actual website address. Searching for “(famous brand) Support” can lead to various fake websites built expressly to trick people into calling them instead of the actual company. Hackers pay to push these fake sites to what appears to be the top search result, but they are in fact relying on the various search engine advertising page placements to trick people into thinking they picking the top search result.
Criminals are counting on everyone being overwhelmed and rushed. They are hoping you will call the number or click the link they have conveniently provided to you. They will catch you in a moment of weakness and that mistake may end up being very costly. Go slow. Verify carefully. Be sceptical. Ask for advice from someone you trust and know personally.
Image by kewl from Pixabay
Most of you know that I do not recommend using certain “freemail” accounts for any aspect of your professional lives. In short, many of them are poorly supported, barely secured and frequently targeted by cybercriminals because of these elements and because of who uses them. The ones that are being heavily targeted now are mostly legacy accounts that were established by old ISP companies that have since merged, sold or otherwise transformed into another company. Examples include sbcglobal.net, att.net, roadrunner.net, aol.com, yahoo.com, earthlink.net, etc, but they all share a common aspect: responsibility for maintaining the services that power these emails has been passed from company to company like a red-headed stepchild and the services are clearly suffering from neglect.
I’ve had this email for years! I can’t change this email!!
Invariably, we’re going to have this conversation, with you or perhaps with an elder member of your family. And yes, for some folks, changing an email address that you’ve had for 10+ years is going to be a huge pain. There are alternatives to completely abandoning the account, but there is still going to be some work to keep it, you and your loved ones safe. It depends highly on the email service, but most of them have made token efforts to upgrade their security and accessibility. Log into the account, look for account settings, specifically security to see if any of the following are available:
- First and foremost, if they offer multi-factor/2-factor authentication, set it up and use it. This is a no-brainer, and just about everyone has a cell phone.
- Set up a backup email account – most email services offer the ability to set another email account as a way to rescue or recover a forgotten password.
- Even if they can’t do 2-factor, some freemail services let you attach a cellphone for recovery purposes. Support personnel (if/when you can actually reach them) can use the cellphone to verify you are the proper owner of the account when you are in the process of attempting to recover access.
- Check to see if the password to secure this account has been compromised using this website: https://haveibeenpwned.com/Passwords. Even if it hasn’t, if it’s an easy to guess password, change it and write it down if it’s not one you or they are going to easily remember.
In the end, these are only stop-gap measures. Some email domains are currently on their 4th or 5th handoff, and at a certain point they are likely going to end up with the lowest bidder – something you never want for a critical technology service like email. Your eye should be on transitioning to a more sustainable platform like Gmail or Outlook.com.
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
Late in the year, just in time for the holidays, LastPass released more information about the security breach they experienced in August of 2022. And as could be expected, it wasn’t good news. It wasn’t the worst news, but in my estimation, it’s still going to create a lot of headache and work for their customers, some of whom are using their service based on our recommendation. C2 uses LastPass internally but not to store client passwords, but regardless we will be migrating away from them as soon as practically possible.
What this means for you
If you’ve read their statements regarding this security breach you might be under the impression than your passwords are safe. The encrypted vault that was stolen was a backup of customer data from September 22, 2022. If you started using LastPass after that date, you are not part of the breach and you are actually in the clear (for the moment). If you’ve been using LastPass before that date, it’s highly likely that hackers have access to your encrypted passwords. Per LastPass, if you choose a strong master password, those passwords are relatively safe. However, given enough time and computational resources, any encryption can be broken, so the clock is ticking on how long they will remain encrypted. It’s more important that you should know that each password’s associated login name and URL were also captured in the data stolen and those important bits weren’t encrypted. This gives hackers many more points of data to hone their phishing attacks and will result in highly targeted, realistic phishing emails that purport to be from services you actually use, utilizing specific information you will recognize, to lend credibility to fake emails. Given that it is definitely easier to trick humans than to crack 256-bit encryption, we’re banking on the fact that everyone, not just our clients will be facing numerous phishing attempts in the coming year. What can you do to combat (I do not use that word lightly) this?
- Any passwords stored in LastPass should be changed. If you have lots of passwords stored, this may take some time, but it will be well worth it.
- Any opportunity you are given to utilize multi-factor authentication to further protect an account should be taken.
- Review your master password. If it is not complex and/or easily guessable, you should change it. Be careful! If you mess this process up and lose your master password, they will not be able to recover it. You will have to abandon the account and the data within.
- Regard emails received from your known services very carefully, especially if it results in a login prompt or a password inquiry. Phishing emails are getting very sophisticated. If you receive an email that looks legitimate, don’t use the links embedded in the email regardless. Hand-type the URL of the service you need to use into your browser or use a favorite/shortcut you created to get to the website. Make sure you don’t mistype the URL – there are plenty of fake domains created specifically to capture mistyped URLs. Don’t search for the website using your browser – this can also lead to fake websites if you aren’t paying close attention.
- Consider moving to a different password management platform. Industry opinion is mixed on whether or not LastPass was using best-in-class technology and methodology to store your data at the time of the breach, but they are being widely criticized for their lack of transparency and urgency in addressing the breach. Understand that with a breach on this scale, multiple lettered agencies will be involved as well as numerous lawyers, so transparency will always suffer in these types of matters.
If you have questions about how you might be impacted by this breach, or what your company can do to implement password management at an organizational level, please give us a call or send us an email. We can provide a platform that can provide secure password sharing for you and your co-workers that is also administered and supported by C2.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Traditionally I like my year-end messages to be hopeful, but as I am someone who does not mince words when it comes to your technology, I don’t come to you at the close of 2022 with a message of optimism. If anything, I want to congratulate you for surviving this year with your sanity and health intact, if not your technology security. Accomplishing all three is something to be commended, and I am sad to report that not all of our clients were as successful, including a client and good friend who passed unexpectedly this year. This post is dedicated to him, and to everyone who fought the good fight this year, either against cyberattacks, Covid and everything between.
“Don’t take security for granted.”
This is my year-end message for you: If there is one trend I can clearly point to in this past year (and in years previous), is that you are the first and last line of defense in the war for your technology security. You are the first and last line of defense in maintaining your privacy. We here at C2 Technology are willing and able to throw ourselves in front of as many attacks as we can, but we can’t be with you in every moment, everywhere you touch technology, nor should you want us there. In almost nearly all cases of hacks that we have worked through this year, and numerous others I have read about, breaches and compromises have occurred because attackers are very successful at exploiting human, not technology, weaknesses.
One thing that I know for sure is that you can count on even more cybersecurity attacks in every aspect of your personal and business technology. There is big money in compromising your security – organized crime has moved, full-scale, into funding, staffing and managing highly effective fraud call centers and hit-squads whose primary objective is to trick you into giving them access to your stuff and then cleaning house. On top of this, there is no singular magic bullet, app, governing body nor enforcement agency that can protect you. Let me reiterate – there is no perfect, monolithic solution C2 or any other organization can provide to you to keep you perfectly safe. As with cold weather, layers are better than just a single, bulky jacket. Your best defense will be a collection of services, software and best practices. Your configuration of those layers will vary based on personal or organizational need, but everyone should at minimum be considering the following:
- Constant vigilance is the key. You should assume that you are under constant cyberthreat and act accordingly. As much as it feels distasteful say this given the current political climate, you should consider yourself on cyber-wartime footing with no armistice or ceasefire in your near future. You may have heard me jokingly compare this vigilance with paranoia, but my gallows humor may have done you a disservice in making light of this situation. Make no mistake, this is very serious, and I do not see anyone being able to let down their guard anytime soon. As I mentioned above, C2 can’t always be there for a magical, “Get down, Mr. President!” moment. All we can do is attempt to train you to spot the peril. If you have employees, you should bolster their vigilance with actual, formal training – not everyone will have the same level of urgency on technology security as the principals of the organization, but training and testing will help them understand the importance and impress upon them that this is a part of their job responsibilities, regardless of their role in the organization.
- If you aren’t using unique passwords and multi-factor authentication for your critical online accounts, you are doing the cyber equivalent of leaving the keys in your running car in a dangerous neighborhood. You should check your most-used passwords here, and if any of them show up on the list, immediately change that password everywhere you used it. Right. Now. If you can turn on multi-factor authentication for your banking and other critical service accounts and haven’t already done so, do so. Right. Now.
- Back up your files to a cloud provider on a daily basis. You can get a very reliable, easy to use service for as little as $7/month, and you might already have access to a form of cloud backups through Apple or Microsoft by virtue of other services for which you are already paying. Keep in mind, services like OneDrive and iCloud are a form of short-term backup, but do not normally provide long-term recovery of files deleted more than 30 days ago, nor can they fully protect against certain forms of ransomware attacks, so make sure you consult with your friendly neighborhood technology professional about what would be appropriate for your use case.
- Keep work and personal separate. This may be difficult to do especially if you work from home on your own technology, but the more you intermingle, the more risk you take from one side or the other. This also goes for using your home network if you have family that aren’t as security conscious as you, especially seniors and young children, both of whom are particularly vulnerable to scams that most of us spot in a heartbeat. Your technology professional will have ways to segment your work and home life, but it will result in additional expense and inconvenience.
- At the business level, antivirus and malware protection has evolved into what is now known as “endpoint protection.” The free software that comes with your new PC is NOT endpoint protection, nor is the product they are trying to upsell you. The primary difference between the two is that last generation products relied heavily on definition tables and scheduled scans of your files, which is not nearly as effective against modern malware tactics that sometimes don’t even involve something being installed in your hard drive, or software that literally changes by the hour. Endpoint protection relies on algorithms that are able to analyze the behavior of softwares and services to determine if they might be harmful, and more importantly, are designed not only to protect the device on which it’s installed, but also to protect the network to which it is connected, something that previous gen antivirus software could not do.
- If you deal with any kind of PII (personally-identifiable information) where that information is stored on your computer – even if only in transit – your hard drive should be encrypted, especially if the device housing it is easily stolen, such as a laptop. Fortunately, both Windows and Mac OS do include encryption, but it isn’t always enabled, and in the case of Windows, it is only readily available in the “Professional” (more expensive) variant of their OS.
- You should be making sure your operating system and main software apps are kept up to date. Microsoft releases updates on a weekly basis, and about half of them require a reboot to full apply. Windows 10 (and to a certain degree 11) is so stable that it can go weeks without rebooting but waiting that long can cause other problems that will be a lot more inconvenient than restarting your PC. We recommend clients restart their PCs as frequently as every 3 days – this accomplishes needed housekeeping tasks as well as clearing the “virtual crud” that all PCs accumulate through daily use, especially if you like having lots of windows and apps open.
Technology security requires a holistic approach, and I don’t mean tuning your chakras and making sure your gut biome is balanced. Every aspect of your technology, from internet provider to software services, every device used in the work process, all users, and even your clients’ and customers’ technology should be reviewed and considered when formulating your security approach. The days of “set and forget” are long gone. Protecting your technology is something that will require effort and, dare I say, constant vigilance.
Last Friday, while I was in the middle of working with a client at their office, I received a voicemail that set off some alarm bells when I read the transcript. I had received a call from someone claiming to be from the local Sheriff’s department wanting to discuss an important matter. I’ve worked with law enforcement in the past as a consultant on various technical items, so I figured someone had provided my name to this Sargeant as a technology expert. Nope, that was not what he was calling about. This was regarding a “failure to appear” in court on a traffic ticket and a warrant for my arrest.
Talk about “record scratch” moments!
Prior to talking to this person, I had my office call back on the voicemail to verify the number rang through to an actual person. It did, so I called him back. He sounded legitimate, down to the faint southern accent, generous application of law enforcement terminology in our conversation, and the fact that I did have an old fixit ticket that I did resolve – I hadn’t updated my license with my new address after we moved – but was never able to close the loop on, as the ticket was never logged into the county’s online system. (It still isn’t, I just checked again, over a year after it was issued!) He had me sweating for a few minutes, until he brought up the matter of settling this over the phone by paying for a bail bond, which could be done using an app on my phone, as long as either were linked to my bank account. RED ALERT!!! I asked him to verify his identity and badge number, and he also offered to prove he was who he said he was by calling me from their “official” line. He did, and the caller ID displayed a number that, when searched up on Google, showed it was indeed the non-emergency number for the Sheriff’s department he claimed to be from. What he didn’t know was that I know scammers can spoof any number they like, including the Sheriff’s department. Perhaps sensing that he was losing me (a sign of an expert conman) he pulled out all the stops: wanting to know if I was ready to resolve this now or come on down to the Sheriff’s station to turn myself in. When I played dumb and said my GooglePay wasn’t set up with my bank account, he offered to walk me through it.
All throughout this, I was texting with my office to have them actually call the Sheriff’s office to verify this man was who he said he was. While I was verbally fencing with the “Sargeant”, they confirmed my suspicions that this was indeed a known scam, and the person on the phone was not in any way affiliated with the Sheriff’s department. I promptly hung up on the scammer and put in a call to one of our clients who also happens to be one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the county and a former DA. He also confirmed that local law enforcement would not be calling people to post bail via phone, and more importantly, there were no outstanding warrants for my arrest.
Here are the things that set off warning bells on this call, and may provide you with help in identifying similar scams when they inevitably call your cell:
- The scammer absolutely did not want me to hang up with him once he had me on the phone. He went to far as to throw around some official-sounding terminology – “Mandatory Contact Order” that required he stay on the phone with me to make sure this matter got resolved. Ostensibly this is so that I can’t call for help or advice (like I did anyways, via text), and to keep the intimidation factor active.
- Scammers will always want you to use your bank account, or to have you pay via a method that can’t be reversed, like gift cards or money orders. Credit cards are easily charged back, and often have blocks in place that make them non-starters for scams like this. No legitimate law enforcement agency is going to allow you to post bail on any matter via phone – how do they know the person they are talking to is actually the person named in the warrant?
- Don’t accept a call-back by the scammer from a different number as verification of their identity. Spoofing any number is trivial for them. They can pretend to call from any number that can be found on Google. Hang up and call the organization they are supposedly from on a new call, or have someone next to you do it for you.
- Don’t just assume because the person calling doesn’t have a foreign accent that it makes them more credible. I’ve heard from numerous clients about scam calls from people who were clearly native English speakers with a Western (or no) accent.
- Scammers will often use scare tactics to pressure you into a hasty decision – whether it’s being arrested, or that your name showed up on an FBI watch list for child pornography, or you have unpaid taxes and fines that will be levied against your paycheck. The claims will be hard to verify – more so because the scammer will be doing their best to keep you on the phone talking and not independently verifying whether what they are saying is true. They will often be counting on you wanting to avoid possible embarrassment or exposure so as to isolate you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
They didn’t invent it, but the internet and specifically platforms like YouTube, provided a huge boost to the “Do-It-Yourself” movement. Instead of having to rely on hands-on training, word of mouth, books or walking back and forth between project and the VCR player, we can now bring up at least a dozen or more videos on just about any crafting, repairing, constructing, cooking, etc. endeavor we can imagine. I just watched a video on how to harvest and smelt iron from bacteria found in streams. It was detailed enough that I might have a reasonable chance at actually doing so, if I were so motivated. You never know if we might bomb ourselves back to the stone age and these types of skills might be important again. But at the point where this might actually become important, things like YouTube and smartphones aren’t going to be available. Perhaps a bad example, but damn if it wasn’t an interesting video.
Let’s assume the Apocalypse isn’t imminent
A less extreme example might be the myriad of repair and construction projects you can find on various household amenities. I also just watched a video on how to install a mini-split air conditioning unit, and assuming I have the tools and manual dexterity to not kill myself while operating them, I believe I have a reasonable chance at actually completing something like that. But what happens if things don’t go exactly as they are depicted in the video? What if I spend many thousands of dollars on equipment, dozens of hours of labor and the darn thing won’t turn on – or worse, it turns on but doesn’t actually work as expected? There are certain types of projects that make sense as a DIY project. Bookshelves from recycled materials? DIY. Three-D printed keychain rack? DIY. Mural for daughter’s bedroom? DIY! Email for your organization? DI-wait a second… Malware protection for your work PC’s? Uhhh…nope. Could you implement these solutions for your organization by yourself? Sure. There’s probably even videos on walking you through it. What most videos don’t contain are the instructions on when things go wrong, or how to make sure you’ve implemented the proper security measures that match your business requirements. YouTube videos and website FAQs can only provide the basics. Experience and training are what makes the difference between “hobby-grade” and “enterprise-grade” technology. Trust me when I say your organization deserves (and needs!) technology installed and serviced by experienced professionals. It may cost more up front, but will save you time, money and sanity in the long run.
Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay
Though the numbers are dwindling rapidly, there are still plenty of working professionals who have spent more time working without email than with. And now there is a growing labor pool for whom email is seen as yesterday’s technology (they are not wrong!) and probably do not place as much relevance into it as the majority of the world’s current knowledge workers do. Like it or not, email is still a pillar of the world’s work processes, and now that criminals have settled into their “groove” exploiting it, there can be no exceptions to taking email security seriously.
Your email service should be robust and secure
Rather than tapering off like many other types of cyber-attacks, email hacking continues to grow in frequency, sophistication and damage impact. For most folks, as we have frequently said in the past, getting hacked is not a question of “if” but of “when”, but there are ways to keep your email secure. Can it be made perfectly secure? No, but you will greatly improve your chances of fending off an attack when it eventually comes.
- Your email should be professionally hosted by a company that keeps its infrastructure up to date, continually monitors security and can provide human-based support to its customers. Most free-mail platforms can’t/don’t do this, and it follows that your organization should not rely on free-mail services.
- You should have 2-factor authentication enabled for your email accounts. Not having it on is now considered a huge security liability. Not only will it result in your account getting hacked, it may disqualify you from being insured. If I had to guess where we are headed in terms of cyber-liability coverage, I would say we are maybe only a year or two from it being a requirement with no exceptions.
- You need 3rd party email filtering. Even the big boys in email hosting (Microsoft and Google) only go so far with their email filtering. While their baseline capabilities are still light-years ahead of the free-mail platforms (and free versions of their own services), its increasingly obvious that their focus is on the core technology of delivering email and securing your accounts, leaving spam and malware detection to companies that focus only on that.
- If you send confidential data through email, it must be encrypted. This isn’t just good security practice, this is actually the law in some cases especially where it comes to PII, medical and financial information, but email encryption is not something that most email services come with “out of the box” and must be added on through additional configuration or even separate vendors. This is another area that is already being used to determine your organization’s insurability.
- Strongly consider email backup services. Most folks store a ton of information in their email boxes and take for granted that because it’s hosted “in the cloud” that they don’t need to back it up. While it may be possible to have your email provider restore accidentally (or purposefully!) deleted emails, if you don’t notice in time (usually 30 days or less) that email is gone forever. Email backups are extremely affordable and literally require zero-attention from you, just a watchful eye by your IT professional.
Image by CrafCraf from Pixabay
If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll know that while the majority of our focus is on business technology, I like to keep an eye on all technology, especially issues that can affect our quality of life and personal safety. Hondas are very popular (even here in Los Angeles where it seems like every 3rd car is a Tesla) and according to at least one statistics website, Honda accounts for between 8-9% of the U.S. car market in 2020 and 2021, and the Honda CR-V is near the top of the list of best-selling vehicles for the past several years. It’s safe to say that there are probably millions of Hondas on the road right now, and apparently any that are accessed using a key fob are vulnerable to a hack that allows attackers to unlock car doors and remotely start engines if the car has that capability.
What this means for you
If you own a Honda, you may want to give this article a read, which was based a relatively unknown vulnerability dubbed “Rolling-PWN” by the researchers/hackers that discovered it. The vulnerability is documented and published in the National Vulnerability Database run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is about as official as you can get in terms of documenting vulnerabilities. Despite this, Honda has yet to confirm or even acknowledge the issue. Which also means that there is very little you can do about it other than the following:
- Reconsider what sort of valuables you keep in your car, even if you don’t drive a Honda. This particular hack may not be limited to just Honda according to the researchers. It just happens to be the manufacturer they’ve tested and confirmed vulnerable across multiple years and models.
- Even though they may be able to start the car, they can’t drive the car because they can’t exploit the proximity requirements of the key fob…yet. Regardless, if you park your car in a garage, make sure that it is well ventilated. Carbon monoxide kills, and some prankster might put you in real danger by leaving your car running for hours in garage with poor ventilation.
- Perhaps write a letter to your local congress-critter (Representative and Senator) asking them to look into Honda’s seeming disregard for a significant security issue. If you are friendly with a local Honda dealership (because you own a Honda and use them for service), you could also stop in and show them the article and a link to the exploit on the official government website of vulnerabilities as well. If enough of us raise our voices, perhaps some of these big companies will take notice!