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Automakers Reveal That Security and Privacy Issues Are Rampant

10/02/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


As automobiles become increasingly connected, security and privacy gaps are rearing their heads when it comes to cars and trucks. New standards are needed to plug the oversights and prevent hackers from driving away with vehicle control and personal information, according to a report from Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

Sixteen major automobile manufacturers responded to questions from Senator Markey in 2014 about how vehicles may be vulnerable to hackers, and how driver information is collected and protected. The results were not positive: The lawmaker’s report shows a vehicle fleet that has fully adopted wireless technologies like Bluetooth and even wireless internet access, without addressing the real possibilities of hacker infiltration into vehicle systems. Also, there is overwhelming potential for the widespread collection of driver and vehicle information, since few automakers have implemented privacy protections for how that information is shared and used.

“The ability of smart cars to put us at risk is just a small part of the larger trend towards everything in our lives becoming computer controlled and networked,” Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at Ntrepid, commented via email. “Some of these have the ability to violate our privacy, while others have the possibility of harming us physically or damaging critical infrastructure. Automakers, like most other companies involved in the Internet of Things, are primarily focused on ‘cool’ capabilities with security being an afterthought at best.”

Senator Markey posed his questions after studies showed how hackers can get into the controls of some popular vehicles, causing them to suddenly accelerate, turn, kill the brakes, activate the horn, control the headlights, and modify the speedometer and gas gauge readings. Additional concerns came from the rise of navigation and other features that record and send location or driving history information.

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