Cybersecurity experts have been sounding the alarm about cars’ vulnerability to hacking for years. But it seems that every few months, they are able to provide new anecdotal evidence suggesting that the automotive industry’s efforts at securing data transmissions to and from vehicles has produced lackluster results.

The latest report came from German motorist association ADAC. The group’s researchers told BMW about a flaw in its ConnectedDrive software that would have allowed hackers to remotely unlock the car doors. (ConnectedDrive lets drivers control certain vehicle functions —say, locking doors, and warming the cabin on a cold February day—from their smartphones; it also offers a suite of services and apps including real-time traffic information and restaurant reservations.) 

According to Reuters, ADAC researchers were able to simulate the existence of a fake phone network. The BMW cars then attempted to access it, allowing hackers to alter functions activated by the car’s SIM card.

BMW issued a release late last week saying that it had fixed the security hole and noting that roughly 2.2 million Rolls-Royce, Mini, and BMW vehicles had been vulnerable. 

BMW says it eliminated the security flaw by simply adding encryption. What? That was it? BMW never bothered to lock that particular door (pun intended)? 

For its part, the car company said that even if the flaw had been exploited, a hacker would not have been able to hijack control over steering, acceleration, or braking. What it didn’t address was what other sorts of hijinks a cybercrook could get up to once he or she got in the door.

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A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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