Lax security leaves car sharing apps vulnerable to attack

Kaspersky Lab researchers have examined the security of 13 car sharing applications from household manufacturers across the globe – including those from Russia, the US and Europe. The company’s experts discovered that all of the applications contain a number of security issues that can potentially allow criminals to take control of shared vehicles, either by stealth or under the guise of another user. Once access is gained through the app, a criminal can do almost anything – from stealing the vehicle or its details, through to causing damage or using it for malicious purposes.

Apps are designed to make our lives easier and transactions more convenient. This concept has been taken one step further, with the advent of ‘sharing’ apps, which make everything from food delivery, through to taxi and car sharing a more cost-effective way of using services. But whilst car sharing apps are invaluable for those on a low income and remove any overpayment of vehicle ownership or maintenance, they can also add a security risk for manufacturers and users alike.

To find out the extent of the problem, Kaspersky Lab researchers tested 13 car sharing applications, developed by major manufacturers from different markets, which – according to Google Play statistics – have been downloaded over 1 million times. The research discovered that each of the examined apps contained several security issues. Moreover, the researchers found that malicious users are already capitalizing on stolen accounts for car sharing applications.

This is especially concerning as recent research from Kaspersky Lab on consumer attitudes to app security showed that Europeans do not see ride sharing apps as a threat in comparison to other apps such as social media, messaging and banking apps, with less than 10 per cent of respondents rating ride sharing apps as untrustworthy.

The list of security vulnerabilities uncovered includes:

  • No defense against man-in-the-middle attacks. This means that while a user believes he is connected to a legitimate website, the traffic is actually being re-directed through the attacker’s site, allowing him to gather any personal data entered by the victim (login, password, PIN, etc.)
  • No defense against application reverse engineering. As a result, a criminal can understand how the app works and find a vulnerability that would allow him to obtain access to server-side infrastructure
  • No rooting detection techniques. Root rights provide a malicious user with almost endless capabilities and leave the app defenseless
  • Lack of protection against app overlaying techniques. This helps malicious apps to show phishing windows and steal users’ credentials
  • Less than half of applications demand strong passwords from users, meaning criminals can attack the victim through a simple brute force scenario.

Upon successful exploitation, an attacker can discreetly gain control of the car and use it for malicious purposes – from riding for free and spying on users, through to stealing the vehicle and its details, and even more serious scenarios like stealing users’ personal data and selling it on the black market for financial gain. This could lead to criminals carrying out illegal and dangerous moves on the roads under the guise of other people’s identities.

Cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways in which they can target victims, and with the growth we’re seeing in popular car sharing apps, it’s no surprise that vulnerabilities found in these apps by our researchers are being exploited by threat actors. Individuals must understand that these apps pose security risks and be judicious when sharing sensitive information on them,” said David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab researchers advise users of car sharing apps to follow these measures in order to protect their cars and private data from possible cyberattacks:

  • Don’t root your Android device, as this will open almost unlimited capabilities to malicious apps
  • Keep the OS version of your device up to date, to reduce vulnerabilities in the software and lower the risk of attack
  • Install a proven security solution, in order to protect your device from cyberattacks.

To learn more about the сar sharing threat, please read the blog post available at Securelist.com.