Connected cars: Automotive security needs to shift into top gear

Connected cars: Automotive security needs to shift into top gear

The next step in automotive innovation focuses on making cars smarter by connecting them to the world around them. These connected vehicles can talk with each other, and to fixed infrastructure, about their speed, position and direction – and this is fuelling a wave of new, innovative services, like forward hazard warning, automatic traffic sign recognition, remote climate control and emergency call.

Although these intelligent cars are still in their infancy, they make it possible to implement a variety of applications that improve urban mobility and traffic safety. In Europe, there are field trials under way on a telematics-based road toll. This pay-as-you-drive approach replaces conventional means of payment per vehicle and thus is fairer for the individual consumer. Cities in Asia have also been testing a similar solution since 2010. The aim is for real time traffic conditions to be analyzed by vehicles to choose the fastest route – saving fuel and reducing emissions. Road trials are also ongoing to test car-to-car communication for various use cases, including avoiding accidents.

Quite clearly, the benefits of connected cars are substantial but so too are the security challenges: the increasing number of technology and connectivity in cars could potentially make them more vulnerable, giving rise to a new range of threats and hacks. And, vehicles have already been successfully hacked through a physical connection into the dashboard, like the car’s wireless tyre pressure sensors and even via a Trojan horse disguised in an MP3 file played on the vehicle’s entertainment system.

When opening the car to the outside world, you need to have technology to provide proper encryption for the secure data exchange and privacy protection. To make sure it is as difficult as possible to hack a car, IC manufacturers continuously need to drive advances in this technology. While the potential threat of hacking exists, proven security solutions that prevent network compromise and establish user identity, have already been successfully applied in areas such as banking and e-identity, and are now available to the automotive market.

The communication and telematics examples mentioned the beginning already embed security to manage trust applications and ensure privacy. Such security is proven to mitigate risks across multiple industry segments, including automotive, so think about the continued benefits a secured connected world can bring.

The days of simply relying on an alarm and steering wheel lock to secure your car are definitely coming to an end. We’re now entering an exciting new era where the latest information security technologies are becoming integral to the automotive sector.

Further reading:
Disruptions: As New Targets for Hackers, Your Car and Your House” by NYTimes
How Hackers Can Take Control Over Your Car” by EETIMES

Maurice Geraets
Maurice Geraets
Maurice Geraets is Senior Director Business Development Automotive at NXP Semiconductors. He has worldwide responsibility for new business development in NXP's Automotive business focusing on Mobility Solutions and Intelligent Transport Systems.

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