Is Your Auto Dealership Secure? Top Cyber Risks and Tips to Protect Your Dealership

Auto dealerships collect, store, and process a ton of personal information, from names, phone numbers, and addresses to sensitive financial information used for loans and purchasing cars. However, dealerships, like many other businesses, often lack security savvy and IT maturity. Read this article to learn about common cyber risks you might face as a dealership and how you can mitigate these risks.

Top Cyber Risks for Auto Dealerships

Auto dealerships are prime targets for cyber attacks. Just last year, it was reported that 3.1 million pieces of Toyota and Lexus customer data were breached after an attack on dealerships in Japan.

“Over the many years of working with dealerships, we have seen a drastic increase in cyber attacks. Criminals understand that dealerships hold a large amount of invaluable customer data including financial information.", says Kris Anderson, EVP at Anderson Agency Group, an insurance agency based in Indianapolis. "Taking a holistic approach of security and cyber insurance can help dealerships protect themselves against the catastrophic impacts of cyber attacks. We strongly advocate that dealerships partner with companies like Zeguro to secure their data and have the ultimate safety net of cyber insurance."

Auto dealerships are faced with a myriad of cyber risks and must be prepared, especially since a survey by Total Dealer Compliance found that 80% of consumers would not purchase a car at a dealership that experienced a data breach. 

Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks rely on manipulation in order to access sensitive data and/or systems. Forms of social engineering include phishing and business email compromises (BECs). Phishing is a huge problem across industries. In a phishing attack, the attacker might send an email from an address that looks almost like the real one. For example, an “I” might be switched with a “1”. The email could contain a malicious attachment or a link to a website that installs malware.

BEC attacks are on the rise, especially for luxury dealerships. In a BEC attack, perhaps the hacker has already gained access to a trusted email account. They might then use that email account to request a fraudulent wire transfer or direct a dealer’s accountant to a fake bank website, where they steal login information.


Ransomware is now the top form of cybercrime, and auto dealerships should beware. During a ransomware attack, hackers hold your data and/or systems for ransom, claiming that if you pay them x amount, probably in bitcoin, you’ll get access to your data again. 

Last year, one of the largest car dealerships in South Florida experienced a ransomware attack, which prevented them from servicing vehicles and selling cars and parts. While the owner refused to pay the ransom, he still ended up spending nearly $300K on new computers for his employees. 

How to Mitigate Common Auto Dealership Cyber Risks

Security Awareness Training

Not every dealership has dedicated IT staff or staff knowledgeable about cybersecurity. Even with a cyber savvy employee in place, everyone else on the team still needs to be trained. There are a variety of free training resources around the web to help you get started, but it’s important to implement an ongoing training program to create a culture of security, to help ensure awareness as threats evolve, and to train any new employees. The human risk is a vulnerability for every business, and by empowering your team with knowledge, you can reduce that risk. 

Keep Your IT Infrastructure Up-to-Date

Are the computers at your dealership still running Windows 7 or older OS versions? Do you have automatic updates set up for your software? According to Total Dealer Compliance, over 70% of dealerships are not up-to-date on their antivirus software. It’s important to update both your software and hardware on a regular basis and whenever security patches are made available. Hackers can take advantage of known vulnerabilities to breach your systems and steal data.

Cyber Insurance

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of having a comprehensive cyber insurance policy in place in order to protect themselves from the financial impact of a security incident. Having cyber liability coverage is the ultimate safety net and can help dealers recover from a data breach.

We’ve even put together a checklist to help you when evaluating and purchasing cyber insurance

Restrict Access to Dealership Wi-Fi

The Wi-Fi network your dealership management system is hooked up to should not be public. If you do plan to offer free Wi-Fi to your customers, make sure it’s a separate network than the one you use for actual business activities.

Encrypt and Backup Data

Should your dealership experience a ransomware attack, having encrypted and backed up data is key. Your data should be backed up offsite and on a separate server. If your data gets compromised or your hardware malfunctions, you will still be able to access your business’s critical data and can avoid paying a ransom. 

Implement an Incident Response Plan

63% of respondents in a recent survey of dealerships said they don’t have a formal process in place when it comes to responding to security incidents or breaches. Having an incident response/disaster recovery plan will help you be prepared, and you and your team will have clear steps to follow to ensure nothing gets missed as you navigate an incident.

Due to the sensitive data collected, processed, and stored in dealership management systems and the lack of cybersecurity maturity, auto dealers are a target for hackers. Social engineering and ransomware are common threats that dealerships need to be aware of, but a combination of training, regular software and hardware updates, network restrictions, data encryption and backup, and planning should help mitigate those risks. Finally, if a security incident does occur, having a cyber insurance policy in place will help relieve the financial burden on your dealership so that your business can move forward and continue to thrive.

Zeguro is a cyber safety solution and insurance provider for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), offering a comprehensive suite of tools for risk mitigation and compliance, as well as insurance premiums that are tailored to the size, sector and profile of a company.
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Ellen Zhang
Written by

Ellen Zhang

Digital Marketing Manager

Enthusiastic and passionate cybersecurity marketer. Short-story writer. Lover of karaoke.

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