EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, BODY & SECURITY CONTINENTAL
MMODERN cars are way more connected than we think they are.
After all, in the digital age, the Internet links us all. A good example of this would be when you stream music from an app on your phone to your vehicle’s infotainment system.
Staying connected, however, leaves us vulnerable to hacking and data theft. So, how do we keep up with technology without becoming victims?
According to Andreas Wolf, Continental has the technology to address these issues and protect motorists.
Born and raised in Germany, Andreas, 58, has spent more than two decades in the field of automotive electronics.
He began his career in 1989 as the group leader for product disposition in Siemens Automobiltechnik. In 1993, he moved to France as the head of Siemens Chassis Systems. In 1996, Andreas moved back to Germany after being appointed as the head of the logistics department at Siemens Automobiltechnik. Four years later, Andreas assumed the role of CFO for Siemens VDO Diesel Systems.
By 2004, Andreas was still a CFO, but this time it was for Siemens VDO Interior & Infotainment. Andreas was promoted to his current position after Continental acquired the company in 2007.
Andreas speaks to Torque about the security for connected cars, talks about the future of car keys and tells us how all this technology can be harnessed to protect people.
Continental has technology called “virtual key” that lets you unlock a car using your smartphone. How does this work?
Your smartphone would communicate with the car via Bluetooth, so that you wouldn’t have to take your phone out of your pocket or bag. Most drivers want this seamlessness.
How do you unlock your vehicle if your phone’s battery is flat?
Because of its prevalence in our lives, the smartphone is the one device that almost everybody will keep charged.
But if this situation arises, our technology utilises NFC (Near Field Communication). Basically, you can still pull out your phone and tap it on your vehicle door.
Can NFC data be hacked?
Using NFC to unlock the car requires your phone to be around 10cm away from say, the door handle. Unless the hacking device that will capture the code can be even closer when this happens, it’ll be impossible.
What about Bluetooth signals?
Yes, these can be read and stored. But we have technology against this. No system is
Andreas loves gliding because it lets him “unplug” from the world.
100 percent safe, but ours is about 99 percent secure.
There are potential hacking points inside a car. How do we defend these against attacks?
A medium-size car has 70 to 100 ECUs (electronic control units). Door control units, body control units, receivers for brakes and infotainment, and so on. The ECUs communicate with each other and the car is also connected. There is a constant information flow between it and the Internet.
For holistic security, you must control everything from the data traffic between the ECUs to the information flow between the car and the Internet. And you have to control the back-end, too.
Continental has intrusion detection (attacks from the outside) and anomaly detection – ECUs sending/ receiving nonsense. So, even if someone were to hack our back-end system and upload malicious software, the anomaly detection would discover this.
Ideally, vehicles will be shielded from attacks and be able to
IF YOU WANT HOLISTIC VEHICLE SECURITY, YOU HAVE TO CONTROL THE CONNECTIONS AND DATA FLOW.
share the information with other cars, so that they can defend themselves, too. Rolling out software patches will be key, so that every vehicle can be protected.
Do you have a team of engineers constantly trying to hack your systems?
Yes. We check our own products and try to hack customers’ cars to test their robustness as well.
Does this team of hackers have more successes or failures?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I don’t speak to these guys. But I want them to constantly feel frustrated!
You’re into gliding. How’d you get into this?
I started when I was 12 and made my first solo glide at 14. The feeling of flight without engines or noise fascinates me. I own an Alexander Schleicher ASH 26 E, which has an 18-metre wingspan.
How long have you managed to sustain a glide without using the engine?
Nine and a half hours! The conditions were great and it was a very nice flight. I covered about 840km!
If you’re out of contact for nine hours, won’t people worry about you? Your wife, perhaps?
No. It’s quite normal for me to be away for hours when I’m gliding. I can “unplug” myself from the world. As for my wife... maybe she’s happy that I’m not disturbing her! [Laughs]