Like it or not, connected cars have become a staple of every day life for millions of Americans. The ability to interact with our cars from afar past the key fob has become something we expect to work, but that all relies on the underpinnings of critical IT infrastructure. And when something isn’t working as expected, a minor inconvenience can translate into a customer nightmare.
Someone over at Kia has been having a very bad week. Since Saturday, Kia’s online and connected services have been down, leaving owners unable to pay their bills, remotely unlock their vehicles, or even warm them up in the middle of one of the harshest winters that parts of the U.S. have seen in quite some time.
Owners took to Twitter and various online forums to complain about the unscheduled outage, many confused why they couldn’t view the details of their cars on Kia’s website or various phone apps.
Some owners looking to pay their bills also visited Kia’s finance site where they were unable to login and pay their bills, so they resorted to the phonelines which played a message stating that the self-service options were down for scheduled maintenance. Needless to say, that led to a flurry of people tweeting at Kia because they were unsure of the outcome should they miss a payment due to the outage.
Now, it’s not just existing Kia drivers that are affected. New buyers are also stuck, unable to set up accounts with Kia’s online services. We confirmed this by trying to create an account on the Kia owners’ portal, but were greeted with an “Internal Server Error” and couldn’t proceed.
Perspective owners looking to pick up a new car are also seemingly at a standstill, as dealers are apparently unable to complete any transactions which involve access to the proprietary KDealer portal or Kia’s technical information site, KGSIS (Kia Global Service Information System), according to information provided to Bleeping Computer. We tried to access both KGSIS and KDealer, but the site either didn’t load or didn’t process the login data.
The plot soon began to thicken as rumors of a ransomware attack began to brew on forums. One Twitter user claims that they were told by a Kia dealer in Arizona that the outage was caused by ransomware, though this is still largely uncorroborated outside of internet hearsay.
But a targeted cyberattack doesn’t seem too far-fetched when it comes to a key industry player, especially one whose parent company was in the news recently about a potentially lucrative deal with none other than Apple.
A ransomware attack is almost always financially motivated, aimed at exploiting businesses (and individuals) by encrypting files and holding them ransom until the victim pays up. Some affected businesses take the “we do not negotiate” course of action, hiring private security firms to dismantle the code behind the attacks and figure out the decryption key. Others, meanwhile, simply pay the ransom and move on. The auto industry isn’t a stranger to these types of attacks either. Variants like WannaCry targeted Renault in 2017, and Honda was affected in 2017 as well as in 2020 by another ransomware attacker.
The Drive is yet to confirm whether rumors of a ransomware attack have any merit. We reached out to Hyundai for a statement on this matter and will update this story when the automaker responds.
No matter the cause, people are rightfully ruffled over the outage of Kia’s services, especially when there is no estimated time to resolution. Hopefully this one is a bit easier to dismantle than the case of the stinky Palisades.
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