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Internet of Things raises many security issues for connected vehicles

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 09:00
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The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to internet connectivity to basic devices. This includes security cameras, entire security systems, city water control systems, large HVAC systems, (that is how hackers got into Target), common appliances and motor vehicles. All these items and more are becoming connected to the internet.

As you add items to the IoT, your attack surface becomes broader. In cybersecurity terms, the attack surface is the number of places and areas that are vulnerable to attack. Every time you add another system, your attack surface grows. Every time you add another person, your attack surface gets bigger and more complex. This makes the job of cybersecurity more challenging. So companies today need to be prepared for this increasing threat as a way of life.

Many industrial plants have large manufacturing systems that are now network connected. Cars have wireless networks and dozens of computers. In fact, the average car has between 25 and 50 computers.

But what is not being so heavily invested in and scrutinized is security for these devices. This can pose a problem moving forward for a few reasons.

Today’s vehicles

There is perhaps no part of the modern economy that has seen more change than today’s vehicles. You could say that the average new car is a rolling computer network. Not a rolling computer, but a rolling computer network. This was predicted by some futurists more than 20 years ago, and it’s coming true. In fact, as cars becomes more computerized, and the control systems move to electrical, they become computerized and then networked.

I remember when I was a kid and helped my dad work on our vehicle. He was a very talented mechanic, similar to others who grew up on a farm and needed to be able to fix mechanical things. Back then, the only things that were electrical were the ignition system, the charging system, and the accessories on his 1966 Chevy pickup truck. And nothing was electronic. I literally used to stand inside the engine compartment when we worked on it. Of course, I was very skinny back then. Today, you would never attempt to work on a vehicle without sophisticated electronic and diagnostic tools.

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