Monday 18 December 2017

Driverless cars are facing cyber attack threat from hackers

A Google self-driving car on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (AP)
A Google self-driving car on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (AP)

We know cars are getting smarter and increasingly taking over from the driver. But a pressing question is emerging. Are they more vulnerable to being hacked?

As was reported recently, friendly hackers 'steered' a Fiat Chrysler Jeep into a ditch. And it raised the spectre (as rather expertly outlined on Bloomberg) that it was a warning there is more at stake than meets the eye.

Most big names have cars capable of driving themselves. Most carmakers have automated cruise control systems that make decisions for you. But now the experts say: reassuring buyers their cars will be safe from cyber-attacks is the next big test.

Automakers claim they have sufficient armour to fend off such egressions - as well as encrypted connections and firewalls to shield safety and entertainment systems.

But that may not be enough as Rainer Scholz, a Hamburg-based executive director for telematics and mobility at consulting company EY, told Bloomberg.

Today's cars are so complex more hacks may be inevitable, he says. As ever, the difficulty is keeping pace with advances in 'hacking' technology. His verdict? "We seriously doubt they can."

He explains that hackers no longer need access to an entire car to pick up on vulnerabilities. If they can access just one component it could be enough.

It is estimated that, within five years, around 90pc of new vehicles bought in western Europe will be connected to the internet. And according to experts that could mean a step-up in hacking as cars are more vulnerable when networks connect all their features together.

No doubt the car companies can keep hackers at bay most of the time. But the hackers only need to get lucky once or twice.

Irish Independent

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