Clark Howard: EV Chargers – Are they safe from hackers?

DAYTON — A voltage vulnerability is what security researchers found when they put home EV chargers to the test.

Consumer Adviser Clark Howard said now they want more regulation for manufacturers to keep the power grid safe.

John Hamler, who is a retired entrepreneur, is an EV owner and said, “Well, I’m an old nerd. I’m always into technology.

He said getting behind the wheels of his Hyundai EV just made sense.

“It’s been 100% pleasurable. I knew what I was getting into. I knew that the infrastructure wasn’t quite there yet,” Hamler said.

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Which is why he immediately had a home charger installed.

“I can just plug the charger in the back of the car and go into my phone and schedule the charge between 2:02 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the morning or whatever that block of time I want,” Hamler said.

Hamler is just one of over two million EV owners nationwide. A number that is expected to grow as auto manufacturers make the switch to electric.

Ken Munro founded the British Cyber Research Company Pentest Partners and said, “So, I am a huge fan as well. I’ve had EVs for the last eight years.”

Howard first talked to Munro in 2017 and talked to him about vulnerabilities in toys. This year his team announced security issues with multiple home EV chargers.

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

Munro said disconnecting your charger from Wi-Fi is the best way to protect yourself and the grid.

“It’s no longer connected. It’s no longer smart. Can’t cause any problems at least not so many,” Munro said.

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According to Hamler, “Anytime you deal with electronics, you need to be aware,”

He recently switched to a charger without Wi-Fi requirement at home as for public charging, he’s got some concerns.

“They could I just think they could possibly change the amount of energy I’m getting whether it be 40 amps or whatever. They could kick it up to 60 amps just for kicks, you know?” Hamler said.

Munro said regulations for charger manufacturers need to be tightened.

“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 EV charging infrastructure.

Security researcher Eric Evenchick has been researching car security for more than a decade. His rule for you before you plug in.

“So whenever go there, you’re going to want to make sure that it looks 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. Think about what’s gone on at gas stations where we’ve had to contend with skimmers and other electronic devices to steal our info and it’s just one of those things in life we must deal with and adapt to, and we certainly will.