While the technologies in modern vehicles certainly add conveniences, they also come with increased vulnerabilities. And, as our dependency on these technologies continues to increase, so do the risks. Cybersecurity is “protecting computers, networks, programs, and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change, or destruction” (UMUC). For the purposes of this course, we are focusing on cybersecurity to prevent hacking a vehicle’s systems (to retrieve data or cause the vehicle system to malfunction). This can include a vehicle’s electronic system, communication system, and software. Hackers may be able to gain access to information through a cellular device that is connected to the vehicle’s wifi or Bluetooth system, or through a plug-in device in the vehicle’s diagnostic port (that sends information to a third party). It is especially important that accident avoidance technologies and driver assistance or autonomous driving technologies are protected from the dangers of cyber attacks. Experts are concerned that hackers could turn off driver assistance technologies, causing accidents because people are relying on the technology. If some technologies are present, hackers could also take control over a steering wheel, or prevent fleets of cars from starting all together.
Currently, there are not specific laws or standards for automotive or technology companies that will prevent vehicle cyber attacks from happening. At this point, this would be very difficult given that the technologies are constantly changing. And some experts argue that creating laws and standards would give hackers a “blueprint” to follow. The automotive industry and government agencies know that it is essential for vehicle cybersecurity to be a top priority now and in the years to come.