Researchers Report Cyber Risks Associated with Micromobiles

  • Some e-scooter models were found communicating with the rider’s smartphone over a Bluetooth Low Energy channel.
  • Cybercriminals can obtain personal details of the riders while also causing economic losses to service providers.

Micromobility is slowly taking over as a trend as a solution to the 'last mile' of personal transportation. The vehicle under this category broadly includes e-scooters, e-skateboards, share bicycles, pedelec, and more, that easily zip in and out of traffic.

Fresh research from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) revealed that e-scooters may bring forth new cybersecurity and privacy risks.

About the research

Computer experts at the UTSA published the first review of the security and privacy perils of using e-scooters (and related software services and applications), which goes beyond the risks of potential collisions.

  • According to the research, hackers can cause a series of attacks on the system of these vehicles.
  • Attackers can attempt eavesdropping on users, spoofing of GPS systems for misdirection, DoS attacks on vendors, and data leaks.

Murtuza Jadliwala, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, said, “During that study, we also realized that besides significant safety concerns, this new transportation paradigm brings forth new cybersecurity and privacy risks as well.”

How the personal data of users is at risk?

The research team also highlighted a variety of weak points (or vulnerabilities) in the present micromobility ecosystem.

  • The vulnerabilities can be exploited by cybercriminals to obtain personal details of the riders while also causing economic losses to service providers.
  • Some exploits may even lead to remotely controlling the vehicles’ behavior and operation.
  • The team found that some e-scooter models were found communicating with the rider’s smartphone over a Bluetooth Low Energy channel, leading to eavesdrop on these wireless channels.

Moreover, according to the study on service providers, they automatically collect analytics such as location and individual vehicle information. If such data is pulled together, it may generate an individual’s profile revealing a rider’s preferred route, personal interests, and home and work locations.

Final notes

As Jadiwala claimed, “Cities are experiencing explosive population growth. Micromobility promises to transport people in a more sustainable, faster and economical fashion.”

He emphasized that the micromobility industry should think not only about riders and pedestrians’ safety to stay viable, but also brainstorm about how to protect service users and themselves from significant cybersecurity and privacy threats that this new technology entails.