How secure are connected cars?

One in five vehicles on the road will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020, Gartner predicted last year. Connectivity enables new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities — but how secure is this new technology?

A leading IT security expert has warned that today’s vehicles are “more safe but less secure” because of new features ranging from safety sensors and GPS trackers to high-speed internet links and music-streaming capabilities.

Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Russian internet security firm Kaspersky Lab, said in an interview with the Financial Times that on-board computers have opened new avenues for hackers who will find “more and more methods to attack private cars”. What’s more, he expects connected cars to remain vulnerable to hacking for years.

“The definition of good security is that the attack must cost more than the possible damage,” Kaspersky told the FT. “We can reach this level — but I am afraid that may be for a decade, maybe less.”

With the components that go into car computers coming from all over the world, international co-ordination is required to protect vehicles from attacks, Kaspersky added.

Governments are already responding to the issue, according to the FT. The European Commission has created a working group to consider new legislation to make cars more secure, while the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in the United States has set up a hub for carmakers to share information about attacks.

The vehicle industry is also taking the threat of cyber attack seriously, said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

“Vehicle manufacturers are investing billions of pounds in connected technology and to make cars safer and more intelligent,” Hawes told the Financial Times. “Manufacturers are always striving to stay one step ahead of organised criminals, and constantly monitor for potential vulnerabilities and breaches to safeguard customers’ information and wellbeing.”

Research and Markets expects the global connected car market to be worth around $95.75bn (£66bn) by 2020, up from $27.86bn (£19.2bn) in 2014, boosted by growing consumer demand for features such as making and receiving calls, music on demand and advanced infotainment systems.

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