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article imageElectric scooters could be under cybersecurity risk

By Tim Sandle     Feb 3, 2020 in Technology
Electric scooters are growing in popularity in many parts of the world. While the safety risks have been well-publicised, such as data posted by the U.S. CDC, the cybersecurity risks are not as well known – and yet these could be equally serious.
A new study shows how e-scooters come with security and privacy risks. This is as a result of the software and applications and help to power the transport. This new risks have been highlighted by researchers based at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
E-scooters are growing in popularity, especially in the U.S. major players like Bird and Lime are valued at $2 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. In terms of revenue, each scooter operated in the U.S. brings in around $15 a day. While most media attention in relation to ‘micromobility’ has centered on the accident rate associated with e-scooters, a cyber-vulnerability appears to be equally as dangerous.
According to lead researcher Murtuza JaAccording: “besides significant safety concerns, this new transportation paradigm brings forth new cybersecurity and privacy risks as well.”
These concerns extend to hackers, who are targeting this form of micromobility solution. Risks from malicious hackers include locking e-scooters from working; collecting personal identifiable information from users; and creating fake GPS signals where riders are sent to unintended locations.
The biggest potential vulnerability arises between the e-scooter owner’s smartphone and the e-scooter software. The communication channel is typically a Bluetooth Low Energy channel. This makes it relatively easy for a malicious hacker to eavesdrop or to collect data via the wireless channels. Tools such as Ubertooth and WireShark can help facilitate the nefarious activities of the hacker.
In terms of collecting data, the same wireless channel can provide a hacker with data analytics relating to the e-scooter and its rider, including location data together with individual vehicle information.
From this, a data jigsaw puzzle could be pieced together, revealing personal information like the e-scooter owner’s preferred route home, their personal interests (from places where they like to stop), plus the rider’s home and work locations.
The vulnerabilities surrounding e-scooters will be presented to the 2nd ACM Workshop on Automotive and Aerial Vehicle Security (AutoSec 2020), which takes place during March 2020.
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