Security researchers raise concerns regarding electric vehicle chargers

CHARLOTTE — Security researchers have found voltage vulnerabilities while putting home electric vehicle charges to the test.

Consumer Adviser Clark Howard delves into why they want more regulation for manufacturers to keep the power grid safe.

Retired entrepreneur John Hamler told Howard that after he purchased his electric vehicle, a Hyundai, he immediately installed a home charger.

“It’s been 100% pleasurable. I knew what I was getting into. I knew that the infrastructure wasn’t quite there yet,” Hamler said. “I can just plug the charger in the back of the car and go into my phone and schedule a charger between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. or whatever block of time I want it.”

Hamler is just one of over two million electric vehicle owners nationwide, a number that is expected to grow as more auto manufacturers make the switch.

This year, Ken Munro, founder of the British cyber research company Pentest Partners, and his team revealed security issues with multiple electric vehicle charges.

“The vulnerabilities we’ve found in some cases are because we could turn everyone’s charges on and off, all the ones of the same brand anyway. When you’ve got thousands and thousands of changes going on, and at the same time, back to those problems for the power companies,” Munro explained.

Munro said disconnecting your charge from the WiFi is the best way to protect yourself and the grid.

Hamler said he recently switched to a charger without WIFI requirements at home. However, when it comes to public charging, he still has some concerns.

“Anytime you deal with electronics, you need to be aware,” Hamler said. “I just think they could possibly change the amount of the energy I’m getting, whether it be 40 amps or whatever; they could kick it up to 60 amps just for kicks, you know.”

Munro said regulations for charging manufacturers need to be tightened.

“So we rushed to get EV charges out so everyone could, which is great, but no one really checked. And some of the charging companies that were doing it right—yeah, they’re now being pushed to do the right thing. And some laws have changed in the U.K. and in Europe; at least some are coming in the USA,” Munro said.

In fact, the Federal Highway Administration only sets minimum standards and requirements for the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Security researcher Eric Evenchick has been researching car security for over a decade. He has one rule you should follow before you plug your electric vehicle in.

“So, whenever you go there, you’re going to want to make sure that, hey, does this look legitimate? Is it a real charge? Does it look like a real charging station?” Evenchick said.

It’s not new to have vulnerabilities when you are filling up your car when you think about what’s gone on at gas stations, where we’ve had to contend with skimmers and other electronic devices trying to steal our information.

It’s just one of those things in life we have to adapt to.

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