As a technology blogger and gearhead, I was fortunate to get up close and personal to the newest cars and technologies during one of the media days before this year’s Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. What I found, however, was rather scary.
As a whole, the auto industry is launching technologies to “make life easier” for the driver. In your car, you can have anything from remote start, lock and unlock to specific times scheduled for remote start, park assist, and navigation. Some of these capabilities are accessible from a smartphone, and some are built directly into the vehicle.
As someone who also teaches cybersecurity, all of this new technology makes me shudder. Why is this? Because not all concerns regarding the security of vehicle telematics have yet to be addressed. (Telematics is the technology of sending, receiving, and storing information relating to remote objects – like vehicles – via telecommunication devices.)
One of the pre-show media perks was a presentation called, “Cybersecurity Next Steps: Securing the Future.” While the subject of hacking and ransomware came up, malware did not. Some might argue that these are the same thing, but they’re different. While ransomware would hold your car’s controls hostage until you pay, malware would do nefarious things just because it’s designed to do so. Or, it may let a bad actor get access to your vehicle through a back door and allow him to steal the information stored in your vehicle or on your smartphone. Remember from an earlier paragraph, you can access some technology for your car via your smartphone.
Since cars are now multiple computers, imagine if your car starts rebooting, that is, restarting itself in the middle of your driveway, or worse, on the freeway. Or, with drive-by-wire systems, your steering starts to falter or locks up – or worse, your brakes lock up.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may cause many of these headaches. Any device plugged into the Internet and then plugged into your network, in other words, your car, is susceptible to the transference of infection, also known as an attack vector. For example, if your phone gets infected, and you plug it into your car’s entertainment system, it’s possible that your car could also get infected. Currently, there are very few vehicles that have their driver control systems firewalled from their entertainment systems.
Bottom line: In the rush to get these new technologies to market to make life “easier,” manufacturers are using a “get it to market first, and we’ll fix it later mentality.” The problem is, addressing these issues once vehicles are on the road is too late.