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As Vehicles Become More Digitally Connected, Automakers Form Alliance To Combat Cyberthreats

The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers recently convened in Detroit to discuss the state of the industry at the 2015 SAE Battelle CyberAuto Challenge. Among the topics covered at the convention included the enhancement of cybersecurity in automobiles. With the advancement of technology in cars as well as the further proliferation of driverless vehicles, protecting the sensitive digital software needed to run modern cars will be a major task moving forward.

To combat this growing threat to both the auto industry and individual motorists, the alliance is pushing ahead with its collaborative effort to enhance the industry's cybersecurity posture. The voluntary initiative, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or ISAC, aims to strengthen the layer of cyber protections for automobiles around the world.

The alliance expects ISAC to launch later this year. Initially, the program will allow manufacturers to receive threat information from around the world, helping them to notify, track and counter any threats to the digital infrastructure for these vehicles. Eventually, the alliance would like to include auto suppliers in addition to telecommunications providers and technology partners.

Vice President for Vehicle Safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Rob Strassburger also hopes for Congress to help boost the industry-led endeavor when it reconvenes this summer to act on safeguarding information-sharing measures.

"The Auto ISAC will allow automakers to more effectively counter cyber threats in real time and further enhance the industry's ongoing efforts to safeguard vehicle electronic systems and networks," said Strassburger.

The need for additional cybersecurity measures
As The Detroit News reported, the more technology that is added to cars, the more susceptible they become to cybercriminals. This cyberthreat is not a futuristic worry, but a present-day concern that automakers need to address before it leads to serious property loss and injury.

The increase in technology used in vehicles also boosts their vulnerability to cybercriminals.
The increase in technology used in vehicles also boosts their vulnerability to cybercriminals.

Earlier this year, BMW AG fixed a bug that could have potentially made 2.2 million vehicles vulnerable to remote door hacking, according to the source.

In a report to Congress, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., cited studies that illustrated how malevolent hackers could potentially hijack a vehicle's operations, causing it to accelerate, modify the speedometer and gas gauge readings and kill the brakes.

"Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven't done their part to protect us from cyber attacks or privacy invasions," said Sen. Markey, according to the source. "Even as we are more connected than ever in our cars and trucks, our technology systems and data security remain largely unprotected."

Limits to data sharing
Despite the drive for automakers to provide real-time data sharing information for manufacturers to limit the threat of cybercriminals, there are limitations to who and what these automakers want to share. According to Reuters, car companies are attempting to keep tech providers, such as Apple and Google, and makers of infotainment systems like CarPlay and Android Auto from gaining access to the valuable data these systems provide.

Automakers want to control this data to potentially capitalize off the information generated from these high-speed connections they're building into cars. These companies want to control access to the data and protect their ability to monetize the information received from the new digital services gleaned from vehicle data.

Already, car manufacturers are anticipating high returns. General Motors Co expects to realize $350 million in revenue in the next three years from the data connections. Consultant AlixPartners expects digitally connected cars to boost global revenues from $16 billion in 2013 to $40 billion by 2018. With so much money at stake, automakers will be wary of releasing too much data into the hands of big tech companies while at the same time trying to increase the vehicle's cybersecurity.

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