Cyber Risks and Hacking Threats to Self-Driving Car

Self-driving cars are projected to be available via mass market by 2020. These vehicles are becoming more popular because they reduce accidents, congestion and fuel consumption, increase rider productivity and improve mobility. Despite these benefits, self-driving cars are at risk for cyber and hacking threats that can cause accidents, create chaos or perpetrate terroristic acts. Learn more about the cyber risks and hacker threats to self-driving cars as you prepare for the future.

How do Self-Driving Cars Work?

The technology that makes self-driving cars work is pretty amazing. Each vehicle is equipped with technological components, such as cameras, radar, sonar, LiDAR, GPS and sensors, that instruct the car on how to behave and where to go. The car also connects to a system that gives it information about its surroundings.

Ways Cyber Risks and Hacker Threats Compromise Self-Driving Cars

The same technology that operates a self-driving car also makes it vulnerable to cyber risks and hacker threats. If any part of the self-driving car's connection or system is compromised, the car will perform improperly. Even an attack on a passenger's personal smartphone, tablet or laptop could potentially interfere with the vehicle.

There are three distinct phases to a cyber attack on a self-driving car.

  1. Hackers access a car's electronic control unit.

  2. They inject incorrect code into the unit.

  3. The car malfunctions and improperly brakes, moves in an unexpected direction, runs into objects or people, stops in the middle of the road or is taken over by a malicious person.
Solutions to Self-Driving Car Cyber Risks and Hack Threats

Manufacturers, researchers and security specialists take cyber risks and hack threats seriously. They're working hard to overcome the obstacles and make self-driving cars safer for everyone.

One example is the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC). Manufacturers share threat data that's used to correct components, networks and systems, reducing cyber risks and threats to self-driving cars.

Also, groups like the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council test vehicles and determine potential security flaws. Also known as white-hat hacking, they have discovered ways to hack into every major car system, including the windshield wipers, air conditioning unit, engine and transmission. Their findings make self-driving cars less vulnerable and more secure.

Manufactures are also investigating system updates. Right now, owners must visit the dealership for software updates. Researchers are working on reducing this delay and finding a more efficient way to perform these and other essential updates.

Researchers are also analyzing the GPS. At the first signs of erratic driving or other signs of a hack, someone can then notify authorities to access the vehicle's system and prevent an accident or damage.

No one can anticipate a cyber attack or hack. However, the vehicle industry can secure its network and take steps to prevent cyber risks and hacking threats to self-driving cars.
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