Evolving Tech Fuels Need for Auto Cybersecurity

As Assaf Harel wrote for TechCrunch, “The buzz about 19-year-old Tesla hacker David Colombo is well deserved.” While his actions didn’t consist of direct steering or speed control, he was able to take advantage of a flaw in a third-party app that allowed him to remotely access functions such as door locks, windows and music in several vehicles. And while this one hacker’s accomplishment may not seem like a big deal by itself, it does reflect a much larger concern. Despite prior breaches of cars like Tesla’s, experts do reportedly believe that this may be the first incident involving a hack via an app that grants access to certain vehicle data. On an even broader scale, it is an important reminder that as the tech we use within our automobiles further transitions to the world of connectivity that has increased in so many other aspects of our lives, the more cybersecurity becomes a critical element to the industry.

In its report, “Automotive Cybersecurity Market by Form, Offering, Security, Application Type, Vehicle Type, Propulsion, Vehicle Autonomy, Approach, EV Application And Region – Global Forecast to 2026,” Reportlinker.com shared that the demand for automotive cybersecurity solutions is growing at a swift rate. Although there have been down periods of vehicle production due to impacts from the pandemic and other influences like chip shortages, the market is expected to pick up once again throughout 2022. As this happens, cybersecurity is likely to be (or should be) at the top of manufacturers’ lists. Not only have various regulations, like UNECE WP.29, been introduced to persuade auto industry leaders to install additional safety equipment, but the wireless network security segment is predicted by the report to dominate the automotive cybersecurity market. The expansion of this segment will focus on connected vehicle technology and the prevention of remote access such as mentioned in the Tesla hacker case.

During this escalation of automotive cybersecurity, some of the tech developments that companies are planning to implement include the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence. According to a Verdict article, this exploration has given rise to components such as Cryptographic Hash Functions (CHF) and Quantum Cryptography (QC). The article describes CHFs as algorithms that “provide improved security against attacks in public and private blockchains” and QCs as algorithms that “are highly effective against cybersecurity threats as the data is encoded in quantum states.” Innovations are already being applied by industry staples like Volkswagen, which has created an intelligent electronic key and is testing the use of mobile communications to prevent unauthorized entry. Ford is also looking at ways to incorporate evolving tech into anti-theft measures. Verdict reports that the company is currently working on a system that utilizes GPS coordinates.

As this all advances, Colombo, the Tesla hacker who also happens to lead a cybersecurity organization, had a piece of advice to give. In a statement to CNN, he shared that if we want to prevent such breaches going forward, collaboration will be essential. The more sophisticated and intertwined auto tech becomes, the more automakers, app creators, cybersecurity experts and car owners will need to work together.

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