What’s happening with CDK Global? Update on cyberattacks that hit car dealerships

Operations at auto dealerships nationwide were halted on Wednesday after multiple “cyber incidents” against car-dealership-software provider, CDK Global, caused the company to shut down its systems.

CDK shut down its systems after experiencing two cyber incidents, which the company announced on Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon, according to CDK spokesperson Lisa Finney. The company did not answer questions from Fast Company about exactly how many dealerships were impacted by the shutdowns, but CDK says on its website that it serves 15,000 car dealerships across North America.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for our customers, we have shut down most of our systems and are working diligently to get everything up and running as quickly as possible,” Finney stated Wednesday morning after the first cyber incident.

CDK’s systems first shut down Wednesday at roughly 2 a.m. ET, according to Bloomberg, which cited Brad Holton, vice president of the firm Proton that specializes in cybersecurity for the auto industry. CDK did not respond to questions about whether an individual or group was behind the cyber incidents, but it did say that it was investigating the occurrences and would provide updates to customers as its systems were restored. 

Dealerships across the U.S. rely on CDK’s software—which aids dealers in managing tasks from sales to maintenance—for their day-to-day operations. Among the clients that depend on CDK’s software are General Motors dealerships and auto retailer Group 1 Automotive.

Is CDK Global back up?

While the company was able to restore some of its primary products after the first cyber incident, Finney wrote that most of its systems were still shut down as of Thursday afternoon.

The company initially shut down most of its systems on Wednesday morning in response to the first cyber incident. A few hours later, however, the company announced that, “erring on the side of caution,” it had “proactively” expanded the shut down to all of its systems. 

By the afternoon, CDK Global reported that it had restored its “core” product, the dealer management system—a software hub that allows car dealerships to track all sales operations in one place. The company was also able to make operational again another class of its software tools that allows auto dealers to make transactions both online and in showrooms.

“We are continuing to conduct extensive tests on all other applications, and we will provide updates as we bring those applications back online,” Finney stated. “Our first priority is always the security of our customers, and our actions reflect our obligation to them as a trusted partner.”

Despite the restorations, Finney announced on Thursday that CDK Global experienced a second cyber incident late Wednesday evening. As a result, Finney stated that the company “proactively” shut down most of its systems again and was working with “third-party experts” to evaluate the cyber incident’s impact.

Finney did not provide an exact time as to when CDK’s systems would be fully operational, but she wrote that the company was working to “get our dealers back to business as usual as quickly as possible.”

Why are cyber attackers targeting car dealerships?

The cyber incidents impacting CDK come just a week after Findlay Auto Group, which operates dozens of dealerships in six states, announced that a recent cybersecurity issue had impacted its IT systems. The dealership group was partnering with law enforcement and cybersecurity experts to investigate the issue, it wrote in a Facebook statement.

Last year, CDK found in a report that cybercriminals’ methods to target car dealerships were continuing to evolve in an effort to “steal” clients’ data, sometimes through elaborate phishing schemes. In fact, the company found that more dealerships experienced cyberattacks in 2023, writing that more than one in six car dealers had undergone a cyberattack or “incident” within the last year.

How are car dealerships dealing with the shutdowns?

Even as the system shutdowns have prevented many car dealerships from their typical operations, some dealers have been improvising amid the outages. In response to a Reddit post asking users whose shops entirely ran on CDK software how they were coping with the shutdowns, a user on Reddit wrote that they were using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Post-It Notes to track any parts they were giving out.

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