Cyber Threats to “Smart” Cars (And How Your Company Could Benefit)

Posted by Matt CorneliaThe Internet of Things—referring to the inter-networking of physical devices, machines, and other items over the internet—is growing. With the increasing number of internet-enabled products comes another increase: the number of access points for hackers. And while a hacker’s access to (and possible control of) internet-enabled household items and many other consumer goods poses little threat to the general public, this isn’t the case for many other items in the Internet of Things. For example, in the automotive industry, a great deal of attention has been focused on the cybersecurity risks associated with the increasingly autonomous and self-driving vehicles the industry is rolling out. For example, in a recent report, Andy Greenberg described how two hackers were able to remotely access his Jeep Cherokee through the car’s entertainment system, sending commands to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission.[1] Lawmakers have also taken note of these risks. For example, in July of last year, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal proposed the “Security and Privacy in Your Car Act” (SPY Car Act). Their proposed legislation seeks to implement technological safety standards for vehicles,  including standards to protect against hacking and to enhance the security of driving data collected by a vehicle’s electronic systems. This bill and other related proposed legislation are still under consideration.As the automotive industry transitions from “traditional” automobiles to cars with built-in wi-fi hotspots and ultimately to autonomous and self driving vehicles, the number of potential access points for hackers will necessarily increase. In order to secure these access points, vehicle manufacturers will need to start thinking more and more like software companies.This could be good news for other industries. Vehicle manufacturers will have to develop new ways to secure access points and segregate software systems, and will have the incentive (risk to occupants of their vehicles) to invest in accomplishing these tasks. As the vehicle manufacturers develop solutions, other companies may be able to benefit from their investments by implementing similar technologies in their own computer systems and networks.[1] Andy Greenberg’s article is available online at https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway.