The need for personal privacy and security cannot be overstated. Over the past few years, need for security has only grown, for both the government and for the citizens of the country. Very recently, WikiLeaks released documents showing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has plans for a "mission" to hack connected car technology, causing the auto industry fear that their next generation vehicles could be turned and used against them.
With car connectivity sitting at the forefront of present and future automotive technology, cyber security will need to have the most attention. Connected cars present benefits and serious vulnerabilities since they're basically computers on wheels. This gives hackers ample opportunity to target these cars for a plethora of reasons. The only way the auto industry can hope people will feel comfortable buying these cars in the future is to make sure they’re trustworthy.
Imagine if your autonomous car was hacked and driven into a tree, simply because it wasn’t secure from cyber-attack. That is the reality with this sort of threat. As many carmakers are working towards designing cars to be better suited to automation, they’re also trying to cut down on the paths of communication to major systems, also requiring that services be offered through a single secure gateway. The WikiLeaks document revealed the CIA citing “vehicle systems” a car operating system from the Blackberry Ltd. Owned, QNX. They were listed as “potential mission areas” for the CIA’s “Embedded Devices Branch.”
QNX is an operating system that many global automakers use, as it is supposed to provide “a comprehensive, multi-level, policy-driven security model… to mitigate attacks.” Although this system seems to offer some sort of reassurance, the amount of software, hardware, and network components that make up a connected car still leaves it vulnerable. The CIA’s interest in this brought mass attention to the issue, alerting automakers how important fast and readily available security really is. After it was revealed that the CIA had used embedded technology to secretly spy on people through their Samsung smart televisions, as well as other connected devices, protection against this type of hacking is a top priority.
Controlling cars remotely has already been a realized possibility. Last year in September, a Chinese cyber security company was able to successfully hack a Tesla Model S from 12 miles away. Of course, Tesla fixed this problem immediately with an over-the-air fix, but that goes to show that even those with the most technological advancements aren’t necessarily safe from these attacks. A year before that, researchers were able to remotely turn off a Jeep Cherokee’s engine, setting off a recall of 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler Automobile vehicles.
A vulnerable car is just bad for the brand. Not only could your car be in danger of crashing or remote theft, but a breach of information is also possible. If there was private information that was shared between the car and third parties, hackers could very well steal this information, costing the owner pretty much everything.
At this point, it’s pretty unlikely that the CIA or any government agency is just going to start assassinating random people simply because the mood strikes them. Regardless of that, according to a study done by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, 33 percent of respondents are “extremely concerned” about the hacking of fully autonomous cars to crash themselves. This type of hacking has been theorized for over a decade, but now since it’s been very well proven, it needs to be fixed in order for even to be and feel safe.