Superfast EV Chargers Used to Hack Power Grids

Sep 12, 2022

Superfast EV Chargers Used to Hack Power Grids

The freedom of the open road paves the way for new adventures. Imagine driving your brand new EV convertible at top speed down the highway with the wind blowing away all your troubles. Envision fleets of electric vehicles traveling hundreds of miles, delivering packages to every doorstep. Trucks large and small carry all kinds of products over the road. None of these electric vehicles will go very far unless they can recharge at fast, convenient EV charging stations.


Brokenwire: A Threat to EV Charging

Battery charging stations for Electric Vehicles (EV) pose new potential vulnerabilities. As more and more heavy duty electric vehicles use rapid chargers, it becomes possible for an attacker to disrupt the electrical grid by aborting recharging sessions. A Combined Charging System (CCS) allows superfast charging. Brokenwire is a novel attack against the CCS. This attack interrupts communication between the vehicle and EV charger, causing the charging session to abort. When the voltage changes without warning as a result, it can cause the whole power grid to become unstable. Imagine aborting the rapid electrical charging of an entire fleet of delivery trucks, all at the same time [1].

Researchers report that simultaneously terminating multiple chargers can cause voltage instability that could affect the entire power grid. This could cause power outages or even start a fire. They also found that data could be stolen through the CCS charging system. In order to launch a brokenwire attack, the bad actor can use a wireless electromagnetic interference device from a distance of up to 47 meters, allowing them to safely operate far from the besieged charging station [2].

To mitigate this vulnerability to brokenwire attacks, researchers suggest enforcing a secure boot of the charging system. They also recommend the same processes used by OT zero trust to segment networks and to implement secure software patches and firmware updates. Smart IPSes and OT firewalls should be used to establish a zero-trust network architecture with adaptive trust-lists that keep track of the situation and only allow trustworthy data to travel between the EV charging stations.



Log4j vulnerabilities affect devices connected to cars, specifically EV chargers, in-vehicle infotainment systems, and digital remotes used to open the doors. V2GInjector is a malware tool designed to penetrate the V2G (vehicle-to-grid) network. It attacks electric cars and charging stations. It can also exploit a cross-talk communication leak access point in the HomePlug Green PHY standard. By taking advantage of this leak, a malicious actor can launch a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack where they inject false data in order to set up for a fraud attack.


Secure Shell or Web Portal Attacks

Most likely, a diabolical cyber attacker will find a way to use Secure Shell (SSH) or web portals to access the EV charger, either through web traversal vulnerabilities or root SSH access with weak passwords [3]. It is best to use strong SSH passwords and SSL/TLS for remote connections to ward off these threats.



[1] Sebastian Köhler, Richard Baker, Martin Strohmeier, and Ivan Martinovic, “Vulnerability in the Combined Charging System for Electric Vehicles,” Brokenwire, (accessed May 17, 2022).

[2] Sebastian Köhler, University of Oxford, Richard Baker, University of Oxford, Martin Strohmeier, Armasuisse S+T, and Ivan Martinovic, University of Oxford, BROKENWIRE : Wireless Disruption of CCS Electric Vehicle Charging, (accessed May 27, 2022)

[3] Sébastien Dudek, “Examining Log4j Vulnerabilities in Connected Cars and Charging Stations”, Trend Micro (2021), (accessed May 17, 2022).

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