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Car hackers could harpoon stock prices by exposing vulnerabilities

This makes hacking cars particularly enticing for people looking to short a carmaker's stock.

2014 Geneva Motor Show Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Connected vehicle technology can enhance a consumer's experience, but it's also a route through which hackers can access the personal information of an automaker's vast network of drivers.

Understanding motive is a key part of preventing and dealing with hacks, according to risk assessment firm Stroz Friedberg. If the hacking of a Jeep in 2015 tells us anything more than that cars need to be more secure, it's that exposing security vulnerabilities can drive down a company's stock, making it particularly enticing for hackers looking to short them.

Hackers are typically financially motivated, Stroz Friedberg executive director Eric Friedberg told Recode. There's a low barrier to entry — which means it would take less time and money — to access personal information that would help hackers market specifically to, say, General Motors' user base. To drive down stocks, the barrier may be even lower: Hackers simply need to expose vulnerabilities.

So it stands to reason that hackers would use that to make money on their bets against an auto company's stock. And it wouldn't be the first situation of its kind.

"Our firm recently investigated an incident in which an organized crime group hacked into servers on which a company staged press releases containing material non-public information," Friedberg wrote. "The hackers lurked in the corporate network, maintaining access over time to trade on the flow of information before it became public."

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