Pot­holes in su­per­high­way

Herald Sun - Motoring - - NEWS - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDITOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

THE car will be­come in­creas­ingly vul­ner­a­ble to cy­ber at­tacks as mak­ers rush to im­prove the con­nec­tiv­ity of their ve­hi­cles, a lead­ing automotive sup­plier has warned.

As ve­hi­cles be­come more con­nected, the like­li­hood of such at­tacks grows, says Magna Elec­tron­ics global prod­uct man­ager Ha­sib Has­san — and there is in­creas­ing po­ten­tial for the breaches to have fa­tal re­sults.

Has­san says the threat of ve­hi­cle hack­ing could come from a va­ri­ety of sources: from young ex­per­i­menters to crim­i­nals and even ter­ror­ists.

“What­ever we have seen so far is just to show the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the sys­tem, not tak­ing ad­van­tage of the weak­nesses they have found,” he says.

But peo­ple with ill in­ten­tions could easily cause harm by tak­ing con­trol of the car.

“It is very scary if you think about it. It can be fa­tal,” he says.

Hack­ers’ mo­ti­va­tions are many and var­ied, says Yoni Heil­bronn, mar­ket­ing boss of cy­ber se­cu­rity firm Argus. Some are pranks, he says: “There was a re­port about a 15year-old kid who hacked a car with a $15 kit he bought at Ra­dio Shack to im­press his girl­friend.”

Be­yond that are “hack-tivists such as Anony­mous, plain old crim­i­nals look­ing to steal cars and ob­vi­ously, God for­bid, po­ten­tial large-scale events that we are all wary of ”.

Heil­bronn says another po­ten­tial threat is cy­ber ran­som, which is be­com­ing a big prob­lem for small busi­nesses.

“Imag­ine get­ting into your car in the morn­ing and not be­ing able to start it, then you get a mes­sage on the head unit that your car has been hacked and a ran­som is de­manded,” he says.

Magna has been work­ing on anti-hack­ing soft­ware for cars for years. How­ever, re­cent events have spurred car com­pa­nies to seek help from tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers.

In July, Chrysler had to re­call 1.4 mil­lion ve­hi­cles af­ter hack­ers re­vealed a soft­ware bug. GM also had to is­sue a fix to its OnS­tar telem­at­ics net­work af­ter a hacker used it to open car doors.

Last month, hack­ers vir­tu­ally “hot-wired” a Tesla and drove off af­ter plug­ging a lap­top into a ca­ble be­hind the dash.

“In the past year that there has been a sense of ur­gency in the in­dus­try on this,” Heil­bronn says. “In the end we are talk­ing about peo­ple’s safety.”

He says the im­pe­tus to get pro­tec­tion is com­ing from the up­per ech­e­lons of automotive man­age­ment. There is also a grow­ing po­lit­i­cal push for leg­is­la­tion to im­prove se­cu­rity stan­dards, with a re­cent US Se­nate Bill in­tro­duced to man­date cy­ber se­cu­rity.

Magna has a mon­i­tor that checks gate­ways in the car’s com­puter net­work for threats and logs sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity to pro­vide a cen­tral data­base that blocks po­ten­tial threats as they are recog­nised. Draw­ing from the data­base, the car maker can up­date the net­work con­fig­u­ra­tion to safe­guard against at­tacks.

Has­san says that as au­to­mated driv­ing tech­nol­ogy de­vel­ops and cars “talk” to each other and in­fra­struc­ture, more gate­ways will open to hack­ers and threats to cy­ber se­cu­rity will in­crease.

Dig­i­tal dilemma: Chrysler re­called 1.4 mil­lion ve­hi­cles in July af­ter hack­ers took con­trol of a Jeep Cherokee

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