Aug 2016

The Growing Need for Cyber Security in the Automotive Industry

Cyber Security

You don’t think twice about purchasing an alarm system for your house, password protecting you cell phone, or installing firewall software on your computer. But how do you protect the largest piece of technology you own, your vehicle? Sure, it’s easy to lock the doors and install an alarm, but how do you go about protecting the advanced computing and technological systems that are becoming increasingly standard throughout the industry? The simple answer is that you as the consumer don’t. The task of protecting these vehicle systems falls on the manufacturers and the growing industry of vehicle cyber security.

With autonomous and self-parking cars, navigation systems, and advanced safety features that can take control of vehicles all becoming the commonplace, manufacturers are being faced with the challenge of protecting very complex systems. While these advancements in technology help to increase the overall safety and convenience of vehicles, they also open up a new avenue for potential problems and threats.

One instance that helped to bring this issue to the forefront was the 2015 hacking of a Jeep Cherokee, which resulted in a recall of 1.4 million vehicles. This not only helped bring the growing issue to the public’s attention, but also to the manufacturer’s. By not protecting their vehicles, and therefore their customers, manufactures open themselves up to potential lawsuits, fines, recalls, and a damaged reputation within the industry.

It’s quite obvious that technological innovations will continue to be a prevalent factor in the development of new vehicle features. It’s estimated that 90% of vehicle innovations are being focused on the software and that cost of these software upgrades are around the 50% margin in car manufacturing. As a hard-to-believe reference point, a recent report found that there are over 100 million software lines of code in modern automobiles, while current military aircraft only have around 20 million. The more software code there is, the larger the possibility of an error or hacking can occur.

Vehicle manufacturers are currently working in conjunction with third-party software developers and cyber security experts in order to test and maintain operational security. An example of this was the 2015 establishment of the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center. This operating center was created to help facilitate the sharing of cyber security threat information and established countermeasures, all in real time. This center has become a core piece in the identifying, analyzing, and tracking of cyber threats affecting vehicle electronics. Relationships between manufactures and third party groups such as this are essential to the ongoing effort of protecting the modern vehicle and its passengers.

Prior to advancements in technology, vehicles required very little after-purchase maintenance from manufacturers beyond warranty-service. However, with increasingly advanced vehicle features, security defense systems will need to be continually maintained and supported over the lifetime of the vehicle. This goes directly against the principle on which these systems were designed, which is to minimize continued operational costs for both the manufacturer and the consumer. The question now is, who do these costs fall on?

As technology continues to be integrated into the automotive industry, it’s clear that increased security measures need to do the same. The reality is that no software product of this size and complexity can be expected to run free of error or security flaws. And while the responsibility of protecting vehicle systems falls on the manufacturer, it’s up to you as the consumer to hold them accountable for protecting the systems they have designed to help simplify and improve the driving experience.

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