Report: Connected Cars Could Become Targets for Hackers

As the dashboard gets more tech bells and whistles, concerns are emerging that cars could be vulnerable to hacking. Several automotive groups are looking to reassure wary consumers that private driver data will be protected.

Late last fall, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and Global Automakers made a voluntary pledge to do everything possible to protect consumers’ privacy in an age where cars are becoming as connected as mobile phones.

Turns out, that might be a tough promise to keep.

A new report released this week by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) found serious gaps in security and privacy related to wireless technology found in nearly every vehicle that rolls off a production line today. Those gaps, the report said, could allow hackers to gain control of a vehicle’s electronics system from a remote location, enabling them to unlock a car, track drivers’ movements, and start or shut off the engine, among other things.

“Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyberattacks or privacy invasions. Even as we are more connected than ever in our cars and trucks, our technology systems and data security remain largely unprotected,” Markey said in a statement. “We need to work with the industry and cybersecurity experts to establish clear rules of the road to ensure the safety and privacy of 21st-century American drivers.”

Markey’s report was the focus of a recent segment on 60 Minutes that showed a car’s brakes system being disabled by a remote hacker.

Speaking to The Detroit News, AAM spokesman Wade Newton said he hadn’t seen Markey’s report, but he noted that automakers are committed to providing strong consumer-data privacy protections and that vehicle security is a top priority.

“Auto engineers incorporate security solutions into vehicles from the very first stages of design and production—and security testing never stops,” he said. “The industry is in the early stages of establishing a voluntary automobile industry sector information sharing and analysis center—or other comparable program—for collecting and sharing information about existing or potential cyber-related threats.”

To stay on top of cybersecurity issues, the Society of Automotive Engineers announced last month that it had created a Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee. The committee will be tasked with drafting standards to protect consumers’ vehicles from hackers.

“The goals of the committee are identifying and recommending strategies and techniques related to preventing and detecting adversarial breaches, and mitigating undesirable effects if a breach is achieved,” SAE said in a statement. “Safety is the highest priority but does not normally include cybersecurity issues. … Therefore, it is essential that safety and cybersecurity work together to address possible intentional attacks on the electronic system.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!