Hackers have figured out how to attack gas pumps, and things could get really dangerous

Your car isn’t the only thing hackers may be targeting.

Two security researchers recently revealed that gas pumps are becoming a more common target of cybercrime.

In February, after an internet-connected gas pump was hacked, Trend Micro security researchers Kyle Wilhoit and Stephen Hilt set out to find just how prevalent these kinds of attacks are becoming.

As part of their research, Wilhoit and Hilt set up fake gas pump systems called “GasPots” in several countries to track any suspicious activity. They tracked the GasPots for six months and found that these systems are easy to breach and that hackers are going after gas pumps in the US the most.

Gas pumps these days have something called gas monitoring systems or automatic tank-gauging (ATG), which is basically an internet-connected system that is used to track things like fuel levels and temperature. But the resaerchers found that a lot of these systems are not password protected, so they are easy targets.

Wilhoit and Hilt found that attacks against GasPots in the US accounted for 44% of the total number of attacks. Jordan accounted for the second most attacks at 17% and Brazil, the UAE, and the UK all tied for third at 11%. Only six per cent stemmed from Russia and interestingly none of the GasPots in Germany were attacked.

While the researchers found that hackers primarily just renamed the “GasPots” tank names once they got into a system, it’s possible could do a lot more harm.

Gas pump attacks by countryTrendMicroPercentage of attacks on GasPots deployments by country

Because hackers get access to critical data about pumps when they breach a system, they could potentially alter stats to create a dangerous situations. As the researchers describe in their paper, a hacker could change the tank’s overflow limit to a limit beyond its capacity and trigger an overflow and possible explosion.

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