Researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and Switzerland’s Armasuisse federal agency have discovered a new attack method for remotely interrupting the charging of electric vehicles.

The Brokenwire attack entails wirelessly transmitting malicious signals to the targeted vehicle to cause electromagnetic interference and disrupt the charging session.

Electric vehicle charging is the target of a Brokenwire attack. The attack targets the Combined Charging System, DC rapid charging technology, and disrupts communication between the charger and the vehicle.

The Brokenwire attack, according to the researchers, only works against DC rapid chargers. Home charging stations, which typically use alternating current charging, are unaffected because they use different communication standards.

Using a software-defined radio, a 1 W RF amplifier, and a dipole antenna, the researchers have replicated the method against seven different vehicle types and 18 different chargers at distances of up to 47 m (150 feet). They demonstrated that the attack between different floors of a building as well as through perimeter fences and that drive-by attacks are also possible.

Brokenwire affects not only electric vehicles, but also electric ships, airplanes, and heavy-duty vehicles.

The researchers mentioned that Brokenwire has immediate implications for many of the approximately 12 million battery EVs on the road worldwide as well as profound effects on the new wave of electrification for vehicle fleets, both for private enterprise and critical public services.

“While it may only be an inconvenience for individuals, interfering with the charging process of critical vehicles, such as electric ambulances, can have life-threatening consequences,” they cautioned.

Once an attack is launched, the targeted vehicle will not be able to charge until the attack gets terminated, and the vehicle is reconnected manually to the charging station. According to the experts, while the attack can be used to disrupt charging sessions, it does not cause permanent damage to the targeted systems.

The researchers have reported their findings to the affected manufacturers, and some technical details about the attack are not publicly available to prevent further abuse. They noted that an attack can be carried out with off-the-shelf radio equipment and little technical knowledge.