Could electric vehicles present a Cybersecurity risk to the grid?

December 7, 2020 | Karoline Gore

electric car charging

Credit: Pexels

With many countries now participating in the Paris Agreement to address climate change, coupled with the rising popularity of electric vehicles, it is expected that 125 million electric cars will be on the road worldwide by 2030. But these cars, although beneficial to the environment, come with cybersecurity risks. According to experts, security concerns should be addressed before a massive rollout of electric vehicles take place. While the United States has less than 5.4 million hybrid electric vehicles on its roads (based on numbers from 1999 to 2019), the slow growth of the American market might suddenly experience a spike before cybersecurity risks involving charging stations and the energy grid are reduced or removed. 

Policy changes 

As the United States started working on policy changes to reduce carbon emissions from its transport sector, 327,000 plug-in electric vehicles were sold in the country. And this was in 2019 alone. Although this is but a dent in the international market, electric vehicles have a bright future in the USA. Plug-in electrics are popular because they run on gasoline and electricity. Environmentally conscious motorists can use electricity to power their plug-ins, and still have a back-up system powered by gasoline if the need arises. And as expected, the savings are huge when it comes to fuel. 

New York City noted recently that it is planning to spend $1 billion to improve its car charging infrastructure. Around 50,000 charging stations in NYC are said to be in the works, and are expected to be fully operational by 2025. The State of Florida is also doing the same thing, while other states are offering incentives in the form of rebates to individuals who buy electric vehicles.

Charging stations And Cybersecurity attacks

Although the rising popularity of electric vehicles is good news for America and the planet, their charging stations pose security risks. According to Yury Dvorkin, an electrical and computer engineering expert at New York University, charging stations can be entry points for cyberattacks directed at the American energy grid. The grid, Dvorkin says, is a complex mix of cyber and physical layers. Cybersecurity plays a crucial role in the United States’ transportation infrastructure and its interoperable power systems. Poorly implemented security in charging stations can have a negative impact on critical infrastructure, such as the grid itself and its operators, vehicles, and OEM vendors. Experts say that the concern is quite complicated, as it involves software and equipment vendors, stakeholders, and end users.

Charging station vulnerabilities can lead to exploitation of the grid for gain, according to Dvorkin’s analysis. The assistant professor also explains in his research that electric vehicles that are charging in these charging stations can be hacked simultaneously and cause a disruption on the grid’s stability. Such attacks are possible, according to other experts, since electric vehicles have control interfaces and communication interfaces that interact with the grid. There is good news, however, as Dvorkin and other computer engineering professors say that there is still time for the United States to prepare for such a scenario. They add that there would be a need for 1,000 electric vehicles to be charging at the same time for a hack to succeed.

With several experts now voicing their concerns about EV charging stations, there is hope that all potential cybersecurity problems will be solved before 2030. And while the country is still waiting for these solutions, citizens are encouraged to take advantage of electric vehicles, if not for the planet, but for their own pockets. 

Karoline Gore

About the Author: Karoline Gore

Karoline spent most of her working life in tech development before leaving to pursue her passion as a freelance writer. She enjoys the slower pace of this life but still loves to geek out on technology topics.

Read more posts from Karoline Gore ›

TAGS: iot

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