The dark parts of our future are near – with vehicles now more and more connected to the Internet, automakers and their suppliers need to learn – fast – how to deal with a whole new breed of security criminals.
Automotive cybercrime is a flourishing business enterprise. In London, the capital of the United Kingdom, no less than 6,000 vehicles were stolen using a newly developed hack that worked on cars with keyless entry systems – around 42 percent of overall auto thefts, shows data from the city’s Metropolitan Police. And cars are only turning even more high-tech, with Internet connectivity used for a range of features, from pairing the driver’s smartphone to automated and even remote parking. This renders today’s computers on wheels ever more vulnerable to cyber attacks – which are a traditional occurrence when talking about the computer at home or at work.
The recent Jeep Cherokee remote hack as well as other examples coming from “white hat” hackers (meaning they turned into cybersecurity experts instead of wrongdoers) show how stealing a vehicle might be just the lesser worry – with issues ramping up to terrorism or violent activism. Japanese electronics giant Hitachi forecasts around 90 percent of all cars and trucks by 2020 will have Internet connections, it has become critical to address the newly found vulnerabilities. According to Jens Hinrichsen, general manager of Interface Products at NXP,a builder of microchips for connected vehicles, the issue resides in truly stupid wide-open doors” left in the on-board telematics systems that cover everything from navigation to diagnostics. The Internet connectivity and the myriad of add-ons is now leaving the vehicle more prone to cyber attacks conducted from the safety of distance.