Atlanta

Security experts say vulnerabilities in smart EV chargers could leave the power grid at risk

ATLANTA — Mableton resident John Hamler, a retired entrepreneur and self-described nerd, has been interested in technology for years. He told Channel 2 Action News that buying his Hyundai IONIQ 5 SE just made sense.

“It’s been 100% pleasurable,” Hamler said.

He said he knew the charging infrastructure wasn’t ready. So, he bought a home charger.

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“I can just plug the charger in the back of the car and go into my phone and schedule a charger between 2:02 a.m. to 6:00 in the morning or whatever that block of time I want,” Hamler said.

He is just one of millions of electric video owners Nationwide. As more manufacturers make the slow switch to electric that number is expected to grow. More EVs on the road means more chargers in homes.

British security researcher Ken Munro told Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard that his company Pen Test Partners found multiple vulnerabilities in some of those chargers.

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“The vulnerabilities we’ve found in some cases because we could turn everyone’s charges on and off, all the ones of the same brand anyway,” Munro said.

He said when thousands of chargers go at the same time, it could cause problems for the power grid.

Munro told Clark disconnecting your charger from Wi-Fi is the best way to protect yourself.

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

Hamler recently switched to a charger without Wi-Fi capabilities, but he does have concerns about public chargers.

“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.

While that might seem farfetched the YouTube channel The Kilowatts posted video showing them taking control of a charging station.

Munro told Clark that stronger regulations for manufacturers are needed.

“So, we rushed to get EV charges out so everyone times, which is great, but no one really checked. And some of the charger companies that were doing it right and yeah, they’re now being pushed to do the right thing. And 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 over a decade. He told Channel 2 Action News that you need to be aware of where you plug in.

“So, whenever you go there, you’re going to want to make sure that, hey, does this look legitimate? Is it a real charge? Does it look like a real charging station,” Evenchick said.

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