Guardians of IoT: Addressing IoT Security Vulnerabilities in Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations

Coalfire Cyber Security Team

January 31, 2024
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The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure necessitates robust security measures, especially in the context of IoT integration. Explore the vulnerabilities in EV systems and potential risks, proposing mitigation strategies like firmware updates, user authentication, intrusion detection systems, and collaboration.

Key Takeaways

  • Comprehensive risk analysis: The nature of electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations is complex, with many digital intricacies, so conducting a comprehensive risk analysis and understanding the potential risks is essential.
  • Proactive security measures: From securing communication protocols to implementing regular security audits and fostering collaboration for information sharing, proactive security measures can fortify the cybersecurity posture of EVs and charging infrastructure.
  • Foundational role of security in EV adoption: By adopting and implementing proactive security measures, the industry can mitigate potential risks and establish a secure foundation for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, contributing to a sustainable and secure future in transportation.

The surge in electric vehicles (EVs) and expanding EV charging infrastructure represents a significant stride toward sustainable and environmentally conscious transportation. As the automotive landscape evolves, incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) technology becomes increasingly critical for efficiently managing and optimizing EVs and charging stations. However, this integration also underscores the need to address IoT vulnerabilities, ensuring the safety, reliability, and privacy of EV owners and charging service providers.

As the automotive landscape undergoes a transformative shift with the growing prevalence of EVs, coupled with the expanding EV charging infrastructure, the critical integration of IoT technology in managing EV charging stations plays a pivotal role in ensuring optimal functionality. Navigating beyond a mere acknowledgment of potential risks, our analysis delves into proactive IoT security measures tailored to fortify the security apparatus and ensure the resilience of e-mobility. This blog post provides an in-depth exploration of the potential risks linked to IoT inputs and outputs within EVs and charging stations and dissects the intricacies of these systems.

Probing security vulnerabilities in electric vehicles

Input vulnerabilities in electric vehicles

As we delve into the digital intricacies of EVs, the complexities of these cutting-edge vehicles unveil a realm of input vulnerabilities that necessitate meticulous attention. These vulnerabilities, woven into the fabric of EV systems, stem from the convergence of various technologies and interfaces, demanding a comprehensive understanding to fortify the cybersecurity posture of these advanced modes of transportation.

Examples include:

  1. On-Board Diagnostics II port exploitation: On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) is a standardized interface located in the vehicle's passenger compartment, allowing external diagnostic tools to communicate with the vehicle's electronic control unit (ECU) for real-time monitoring and troubleshooting of various systems. Manipulation of the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) port potentially allows unauthorized access to vehicle data or control systems.
  2. Key fob spoofing: Vulnerabilities in key fob systems may allow attackers to spoof or intercept signals, gaining unauthorized access to the vehicle.
  3. Manipulation of CAN bus signals: The Controller Area Network (CAN) bus is a robust and widely used communication protocol in vehicles, facilitating real-time data exchange between electronic control units (ECUs) for seamless coordination and control of various systems. Tampering with signals on the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, potentially allowing control over various vehicle functions.
  4. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi attacks: Exploiting vulnerabilities in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections to gain unauthorized access or inject malicious commands.
  5. Manipulation of sensor inputs: Tampering with sensor inputs (e.g., cameras, LiDAR, RADAR to provide false data to the vehicle's perception systems.
  6. Malicious software updates: Exploiting vulnerabilities in the software update process to inject malicious code into the vehicle's firmware.
  7. Weaknesses in remote control apps: Security vulnerabilities in mobile apps used for remote vehicle control potentially allow unauthorized access or manipulation.
  8. Insecure vehicle communication protocols: Lack of encryption or secure communication protocols may allow interception or manipulation of signals between vehicle components.
  9. Weaknesses in vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication: Exploiting vulnerabilities in V2X communication protocols, potentially disrupting communication with other vehicles or infrastructure.
  10. Insecure over-the-air (OTA) updates: Lack of security in over-the-air update mechanisms may allow attackers to compromise the integrity of software updates.


Output vulnerabilities in electric vehicles

Output vulnerabilities stand as a critical facet within the broader landscape of EVs, carrying substantial weight due to the potential risks intertwined with transmitting information from the EV to external systems or interfaces. This vulnerability landscape encompasses the potential compromise of sensitive data, manipulation of communication signals, and the threat of unauthorized access to the information disseminated beyond the vehicle's internal environment.

Examples include:

  1. Manipulation of instrument cluster displays: Exploiting vulnerabilities to manipulate information displayed on the instrument cluster, potentially providing false readings regarding speed, battery level, or other critical information.
  2. Unauthorized access to climate control systems: Gaining unauthorized control over heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, potentially affecting driver and passenger comfort.
  3. Speedometer readings: Manipulating signals to the speedometer, potentially causing inaccurate speed readings.
  4. Unauthorized control over door locks: Exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized control over door locks, potentially allowing unauthorized entry or trapping occupants.
  5. Tampering with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communication: Manipulating signals related to V2G communication, potentially disrupting energy exchange or grid balancing.
  6. Manipulation of telematics data: Tampering with output signals related to telematics data, potentially affecting remote tracking and monitoring.
  7. Falsifying charging status indicators: Exploiting vulnerabilities to manipulate charging status indicators, potentially causing confusion or misinformation for the vehicle owner.
  8. Disruption of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication: Tampering with signals related to V2V communication, potentially compromising cooperative safety features.
  9. Unauthorized access to user profiles: Gaining unauthorized access to stored user profiles within the vehicle, compromising privacy and potentially enabling identity theft.
  10. Tampering with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): Exploiting vulnerabilities to manipulate output signals from ADAS, potentially compromising safety features such as lane-keeping assistance or collision avoidance.


Investigating vulnerabilities in electric vehicle charging stations

Input vulnerabilities in electric vehicle charging stations

Charging stations that power EVs also face a distinct set of input vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may stem from potential unauthorized access to the charging station's communication interfaces, compromising the integrity of the charging process and potentially leading to unauthorized control or manipulation. As charging infrastructure becomes more interconnected and reliant on digital technologies, robust cybersecurity measures are paramount.

Examples include:

  1. Unauthorized access to physical inputs: Lack of physical security measures may lead to unauthorized access to input ports, allowing attackers to manipulate the charging station.
  2. Tampering with charging cables: Insecure or unauthenticated charging cables could be tampered with, leading to disruptions in charging or potential damage to the vehicle.
  3. Radio-frequency identification spoofing: Vulnerabilities in RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) systems might allow attackers to spoof RFID cards or fobs, gaining unauthorized access to charging services.
  4. Man-in-the-middle attacks on communication channels: Intercepting and manipulating data exchanged between the charging station and the vehicle, leading to unauthorized control or monitoring of the charging process.
  5. Unauthorized firmware updates: Lack of secure update mechanisms may enable attackers to upload unauthorized firmware, potentially introducing vulnerabilities or compromising the charging station's functionality.
  6. Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks: Overloading input channels with excessive requests or malicious data to disrupt the availability of the charging station for legitimate users.
  7. Insecure mobile apps: Vulnerabilities in companion mobile apps used to control or monitor charging sessions, which could be exploited for unauthorized access or manipulation.
  8. Near Field Communication (NFC) vulnerabilities: Exploiting weaknesses in NFC protocols, potentially leading to unauthorized access or data manipulation during charging sessions.
  9. Exposed USB ports: Charging stations with exposed USB ports may be susceptible to attacks where malicious devices are connected to compromise the system.
  10. Environmental sensors manipulation: Tampering with environmental sensors (e.g., temperature and humidity) connected to the charging station to provide false data, potentially causing safety issues.


Output vulnerabilities in electric vehicle charging stations

Within the intricate framework of the electric mobility infrastructure, output vulnerabilities in charging stations emerge as a pivotal and multifaceted concern. These vulnerabilities include a broad spectrum of potential risks intricately tied to transmitting information from the charging station to external systems or interfaces, amplifying the complexity of managing reliable and secure charging processes for EVs.

Examples include:

  1. False charging status indicators: Manipulation of charging status signals, leading to false indicators that misinform users about the actual charging status of their EV.
  2. Manipulation of charging rate: Unauthorized adjustments to the charging rate, either slowing down or accelerating the charging process beyond normal parameters.
  3. Overcharging or undercharging: Exploiting vulnerabilities to manipulate the charging station's output signals, potentially causing overcharging or undercharging of the EV’s battery.
  4. Unauthorized access to charging history: Gaining access to and manipulating the recorded charging history, compromising user privacy, or causing incorrect user billing.
  5. Temperature and environmental controls: Tampering with output signals related to temperature controls, potentially causing overheating or other environmental hazards.
  6. Manipulation of display screens: Exploiting vulnerabilities to manipulate the information displayed on charging station screens, leading to misinformation or confusion for users.
  7. Inaccurate power measurement: Manipulating output signals related to power measurement, leading to inaccurate reporting of energy consumption or power delivered.
  8. Disruption of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communication: Interfering with the communication between the charging station and the EV in Vehicle-to-Grid systems, potentially disrupting energy exchange or grid balancing.
  9. Unauthorized physical output controls: Gaining unauthorized access to physical output controls, such as emergency stop buttons or physical switches, to disrupt or halt charging sessions.
  10. Manipulation of maintenance signals: Tampering with maintenance signals or notifications, potentially causing false alarms or preventing legitimate maintenance alerts.


Mitigating IoT security risks:

  1. Firmware updates: Regularly update the vehicle's firmware to patch security vulnerabilities and ensure the latest security features are in place.
  2. User authentication: Implement robust user authentication mechanisms, including multi-factor authentication, to prevent unauthorized access to vehicle controls and data.
  3. Intrusion detection systems: Integrate intrusion detection systems to promptly identify and respond to unauthorized access attempts or suspicious activities within the vehicle's systems.
  4. Secure boot process: Establish a secure boot process to ensure the integrity of the vehicle and charging station's software, preventing the execution of compromised or unauthorized code.
  5. Security training: Educate engineering teams on cybersecurity best practices, ensuring proper risk management to reduce vulnerabilities and risk within EVs and charging stations.
  6. Network segmentation: Implement network segmentation to isolate critical systems from potential cyber threats, reducing the attack surface for charging station vulnerabilities.
  7. Secure communication protocols: Utilize secure communication protocols between EVs and charging stations to protect data integrity during charging sessions.
  8. Regular security audits: Conduct routine security audits of charging station software and hardware to identify and remediate vulnerabilities promptly.
  9. Access controls: Enforce strict access controls for charging station components, limiting physical and digital access to authorized personnel only.
  10. Collaboration and information sharing: Foster collaboration within the industry to share threat intelligence and best practices, enhancing the collective ability to respond to emerging cybersecurity challenges.


In the dynamic landscape of EVs and charging stations, the ongoing expansion of the charging infrastructure underscores the critical need to address IoT security vulnerabilities comprehensively. Mitigating potential risks in both EVs and charging stations requires a strategic approach. Implementing robust authentication mechanisms, fortifying communication channels, regularly updating firmware, and enhancing physical security measures are pivotal steps.

By adopting these proactive security measures, we guarantee the safety, privacy, and reliability of EVs and charging services and foster a robust foundation for consumer trust within the broader ecosystem. This commitment to security facilitates the adoption of EVs and acts as a catalyst for future advancements, laying the groundwork for a sustainable and secure transportation future.