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The Increasingly Relevant Threat of Vehicle Hacking

As the number of electronics and computers inside our vehicles are dramatically increasing, so is the risk and possibility for them to be hacked and tampered with by unwelcome intruders [1].

“Hackers”, in a traditional sense, have thus far mainly posed a risk in terms of personal data being stolen from your computer or smartphone. Now, with an increasing rate of implementation of computer electronics in our vehicles, they are a threat that needs serious scrutiny as the potential damage they can cause goes from stealing data to everything from gridlocking traffic to taking control of vehicles and potentially causing serious and deadly injuries.

Upstream security, a company which monitors the cyber-attacks on connected vehicles has reportedly identified more than 260 instances of digital interference worldwide since 2010, with 71 of those being thus far in 2019 alone. Two prominent and recent examples of these instances include Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing service, where more than 70 vehicles were stolen because of a digital access exploit by hackers in Chicago in April of this year, and an article published in Wired magazine where two researchers and one reporter detail how to get full access to an FCA Jeep Cherokee (including steering wheel and pedals) during drive, which led to a recall of 1.4 million cars [2].

However, efforts to combat this are underway. Both the U.S. and EU have issued guidelines which aim to incorporate a safe development of the next generation of vehicles, although compliance with these standards is thus far voluntary. The reason for this is that cyber-security in terms of safety for vehicles is still a new and developing field. Alongside the work of crafting general and mandatory governmental policies, independent start-ups have joined the fight by developing vehicle-specific cyber-security solutions for worried OEMs, for example, IOActive and Karamba Security, with promises of sophisticated solutions on the market within two years.

 

Personal comments

With technological developments like the digital revolution within vehicle manufacturing, OEMs will lose the luxury of just developing a vehicle, put it out on the market and then support it for a limited time. If software is included in a car, which has already demonstrated tremendous benefits, but also serious risks, this software needs to be maintained and updated for as long as the vehicles are used from a safety perspective. This will likely force the manufacturers or operators of these systems to engage in a new kind of relationship with vehicle owners, that will extend far longer than what they are used to now.

 

Written by Darijan Jelica, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-06-04. Car hacking threatens vision of connected mobility.

2. 2015-07-21. Hackers remotely kill a jeep on the highway – with me in it.