A Computer on Wheels

The NMA Foundation presents the Car of the Future weekly feature:

Earlier this month, WikiLeaks documents busted the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) over a “mission” against connected car technology. Make no mistake-the car of the future will be a computer and as many of us know, computers can be hacked with malware and viruses.

Cybersecurity is mission critical when automakers are designing our new best friends on four wheels. If consumers are to trust smart vehicles, our future cars need to be safe with the hardware and maybe even more importantly, the software.

A major strategy for automakers will be to figure out a way to reduce the number of communication gateways to crucial systems. Any services offered by third parties (such as apps from Apple or Google Stores) will be required to go through a single secure path.

The number of ways into cars has increased—from cell phone signals to dongles. That standard OBD-II port found under the steering column is another gateway point. Hundreds of after-market devices can use this port to monitor driving performance or provide other conveniences such as safety alerts.

Principal researcher at Kaspersky Lab David Emm said in January from the CES 2017 show, technology continues to transform one’s driving experience but also brings new security threats and vulnerabilities.  He added, “If left unaddressed, the risks could become very high.” Emm points out some of areas of vulnerability include:

  • Popular platforms just like any device face the same security issues with malware and ransomware.
  • Data gathered and communicated by connected vehicles could be intercepted to reveal private information about the vehicle, the destination, the occupants and more—all of which increases physical vulnerability.
  • Hackers could also expose private information shared between the connected car and third parties. These include credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords and other personal data that could be used to steal identities, money, etc.

Automakers must be committed to embedding security-by-design from the start of development any connected vehicle. This includes installing the latest software and updating it regularly. Tesla already updates its cars remotely and automatically. Experts say this also could be a danger point—just like problems we have today with updates on our personal devices’ software.

In January, the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that 33 percent of respondents in a survey said they were “extremely concerned” over hackers causing connected vehicles to crash.

And now according to WikiLeaks we should be concerned about the CIA and perhaps other law enforcement abusing their power over our computers on wheels.

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The NMA Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation.  The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions.


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If you are interested in learning more about the Car of the Future check out the following NMA resources:

NMA Driving News Feed—Over 50 Car of the Future stories are placed each month in the NMA Driving News—the go-to source for all your driving news information from around the country.

NMA’s Flipboard Magazine called Car of the Future—Over 50 stories are placed each month in this magazine devoted to the Car of the Future.  Stories featured include future car politics, industry news and thought pieces.

Pinterest Boards

Follow the National Motorists Association on Pinterest Here OR

Follow individual Boards that have a specialized focus on the Car of the Future:

Car of the Future

Car sharing/Ride sharing Watch

Concept Cars

Connected Cars, Connected Cities

Driverless Cars

Electric Cars (EVs)

Flying Cars

Future of the Motorcycle

Hybrid Cars

Hydrogen Cars

Solar-Powered Cars

If you have an interesting story about the Car of the Future, please feel free to send us a link to the NMA Email address nma@motorists.org.

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One Response to “A Computer on Wheels”

  1. Arizona Automotive Institute says:

    With car sharing on the horizon, which car manufacturer will win top spot? I don’t see a reason for unique cars if everyone uses public transportation or uber.