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Why Is The Auto Industry Paying Attention to Cybersecurity?

Security firms focus on cybersecurity in vehicles and for a good reason
By Leo Shvedsky
January 14 2022
The future of self-driving cars. 

Cell phones, computers, tablets, and now cars are equipped with smart technology to help navigate, communicate, work, and socialize. Indeed, today's technology benefits the average, daily life of humankind in many ways, but massive breaches and data leaks compromise the private information stored on smart devices when it comes to cybersecurity.  

What does this have to do with vehicles? 

Vehicles today are equipped with hundreds of computers designed to assist with small tasks like automatic window rolling to more complex safety systems guiding brakes, acceleration, and steering. Today, most modern vehicle models include up to 150 electronic control units and 100 million lines of code. That number is estimated to increase to 300 million lines of code in the next decade, increasing the possibility of hackers controlling aspects of the sensors and systems in smart vehicles. 

Each line of code presents an opportunity for a hacker to invade the code and rewrite commands for a specific function. In 2015, the public got a glimpse at what it looks like to invade code when two security researchers successfully hijacked a vehicle remotely over the internet. The two researchers were able to integrate their own code and infiltrate steering, engine function and briefly turned off the braking system of the vehicle.  

Thankfully, this was a lesson in security from the security firm itself, but the incident begs the question, how vulnerable are vehicles on the market today? 

What areas in smart vehicles are vulnerable to cyberattacks? 

According to a study conducted by Michigan State University, “As vehicles become smarter and more connected to WiFi networks, hackers will have more opportunities to breach vehicle systems. Connecting your smartphone through a USB port can give a hacker backdoor access to data from both your phone and your car. Additionally, Google Android users who can download apps from unverified sites are even more at-risk.” 

To add insult to injury, multiple cybersecurity threats occurring in the last ten years have dramatically increased the immediate need for stronger security of major vehicle manufacturers including: 

A Chrysler 1.4 million product recall by Jeep to address a security research team's ability to hijack brakes and transmission on the vehicle.  

  • Tesla Model S four-year security vulnerability exposing an avenue for hackers to stop the motor and engage the vehicle to start. 

  • Stout's 2020 Automotive Warranty & Recall Report documenting companies had to recall more than 15 million vehicles for electronic and component defects in 2019.  

Source: Buy A Car

Charging Stations and Cybersecurity Concerns 

What about charging stations for electronic vehicles? In parking lots throughout the United States there are more stations that are created to conveniently charge electric cars as their driver will shop, eat, or work. Will a Tesla start-up and simply drive away from their charging stations? 

The answer is no...probably not. 

Electronic vehicles are estimated to take over 30% of the automobile market by 2025, and some security firms are concerned with the risk of using third-party charging stations for vehicles that require electric charging stations. Using the same open-source grid to charge cars at charging stations invite the dreaded denial of service attack. This insidious type of attack targets client systems, in most cases high-profile company websites such as banks and social media, and may cause slow-downs or crashes.   

The way potential hacking works for the network of EV charging stations on the horizon is not much different from the way Ransomware hacking occurs on websites and computers. Both websites and electronic vehicle charging stations are part of a larger network that connects to other computers. That network is vulnerable to attacks from a variety of tools because it sits on an open-source network.  

 Who mitigates cybersecurity risks at charging stations? 

Governing systems oversee vehicle cybersecurity to expose and mitigate potential risks for vehicle inspection and EV charging stations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association within the United States Department of Transportation is one entity working alongside suppliers, manufacturers, and drivers to create multi-layered mitigation techniques to block vulnerabilities within the systems currently in place some of the highest tech vehicles that exist on the market today.  


Driverless cars and vehicles with intricate technology features, fear not. While holes exist and vulnerabilities have been exposed in the past, the sheer complexity that exists within most driverless consoles creates almost an individualized driving experience. This uniqueness from car to car is deeply complex and hinders hackers from creating blanketed, uniform Ransomware-style attacks seen on PC’s.  

Do the risks of EV and Driverless Cars outweigh the benefits? 

There is risk associated with driverless computer systems and automated technology within smart-tech vehicles, BUT there are complex systems at play within high-tech cars that hinder attacks. More recently, private and public companies are emerging with the goal to protect vehicles and drivers from cyberattacks, making it a desirable and competitive market to create new safety stop gaps for car manufacturers to maneuver through before distributing to the public.  

If you drive a car with smart-tech, what are some of your concerns?  



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