As the network of connected cars grows, so does the risk of cars being hacked.

Vehicles with “smart” technology are “increasingly vulnerable” to being hacked remotely, according to a public service announcement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“The FBI and NHTSA are warning the general public and manufacturers — of vehicles, vehicle components and aftermarket devices — to maintain awareness of potential issues and cybersecurity threats related to connected vehicle technologies in modern vehicles,” the PSA reads.

There are two main ways a hacker can infiltrate your vehicle: through your car’s wireless communication functions, and through a device, such as a phone or tablet, connected to the car via USB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

This isn’t the first we’re hearing that connected cars can be hacked, of course. In July 2015, two technology researchers announced they managed to remotely infiltrate a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. They were able to shut off the engine while the car was in motion, disable the brakes and even override the steering. And while no new cases of hacked vehicles have been reported, the FBI and NHTSA said the risk is significant enough to issue the warning.

Related: Road Safety: Could a New Agreement Boost Cybersecurity and Cut Car Recalls?

How to protect yourself and your car

The FBI and NHTSA offer four tips to help minimize your risk of being hacked.

1. Keep your vehicle’s software up to date. If you receive a notification about updating your vehicle’s software, verify that the update is legit (and not a phishing or malware scam) by contacting a local dealership or checking the manufacturer’s website. If you’re comfortable, you can install the software yourself (usually a USB drive containing the update is mailed to you), or you can make an appointment to have a dealership do it for you.

2. Check for vehicle recalls. Some vehicles have already been recalled due to vulnerabilities to hacking. If your car has been recalled, the manufacturer should send you a notification informing you of the issue and how to get it fixed at no cost. You also can check SaferCar.gov to see if your car has been recalled.

3. Don’t modify your vehicle’s software. Making modifications may affect the normal operation of your vehicle and introduce new vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker.

4. Be careful about connecting third-party devices to your car. According to the PSA, “All modern vehicles feature a standardized diagnostics port, OBD-II, which provides some level of connectivity to the in-vehicle communication networks.” Normally, mechanics and technicians use this port to inspect your vehicle’s systems and emissions. But other devices, such as vehicle monitoring tools available to consumers, can also plug into the port. An attacker may be able to use these to access your car and data remotely.

5. Know who has access to your car. Just as you wouldn’t leave your computer or phone unlocked or with someone you didn’t trust, follow the same policy with your car.

Related: Your Next Car Might Be a Better Driver than You


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Angela is a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide. Prior to joining SafeBee, she was the features editor for Boston.com at The Boston Globe, overseeing health, travel, entertainment, business and lifestyle coverage. Before moving to features, she was the news and homepage editor, covering stories such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Red Sox World Series victories, presidential elections, a papal inauguration, and more. Her favorite safety tip: Clean your phone! The average cell phone has 18 times more germs than the toilet handle in a men’s restroom.