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Connected Vehicles: Performance Convenience and Safety verses Security

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Guest post by Gary Madzudzo, Centre for Business in Society

Innovation and evolution has ushered the automotive industry into an era of cyber security. As vehicle development evolves from familiar mechanical systems to electromechanical constructs of highly integrated hardware and software subsystems, connected vehicle technology is exacerbating existing cybersecurity challenges.

For years, connected vehicles have quietly synced with our daily lives, linking to our mobile phones through Bluetooth, enabling faster journey times by analysing real-time traffic news, offering safety nets such as roadside emergency assistance etc. Although, many may not realise this, the connected car is possibly the most visible and familiar aspect of the Internet of Things. Recent advances in sensing and information transmission between vehicles (V2V) and between vehicles and the infrastructure (V2I) offers ostensible benefits in safe driving and improved mobility, reduction of environmental pollutants (e.g. greenhouse gases), and reduced maintenance costs. Inter-vehicle communication permits each connected vehicle to act as a moving network node capable of receiving and sharing information to other vehicles and the infrastructure. By leveraging location data from other connected vehicles, a connected vehicle is capable of building situational awareness of other vehicles for automated crash avoidance. Connected vehicles possess the ability to transmit hazard situations to other drivers that are not readily visible due to weather conditions or to vehicles that have an obstructed line of sight to prevent accidents thus saving lives. With the ability to provide congestion and location information to traffic control lights, optimum signalling is achieved thereby obviating the need for road sensors, which can be very expensive. Furthermore with communication between vehicles and traffic control infrastructure, queuing at traffic lights can be minimised thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving fuel.

The Internet-of-Cars provides a starting point for transportation connectivity that will potentially enable countless applications and spawn new industries.

The integration and convergence of transportation and ICT in vehicles offers tremendous opportunity for innovation, improved performance convenience and safety, it does however, provide a gateway for potential cybersecurity threats. The price for improved performance convenience and safety is payable only in security currency. A currency that the automotive industry should not and must not sacrifice to satisfy human dependency on technology and its by-products. As demonstrated by recent high profile vehicle hacks, connected vehicle security must be at the fore-front of every component design and manufacture. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be a quarter-billion connected vehicles on the road providing more opportunities for drivers to access information, their content and stay productive while driving. This also increases the attack surface available for potential hackers bent on illegally accessing driver and vehicle information. Consequences of connected vehicle compromise vary depending on the intention and skill-set of the perpetuator, results can be minor or can be catastrophic such as causing serious bodily harm or death. More pressure needs to be applied on automakers and their supply chains to develop comprehensive security measures that counter the threat of automotive cyber-attacks that exfiltrate confidential and proprietary data, alter information to cause an unexpected or unwanted effects, and destroy capital assets.

Gary Madzudzo is a PhD Student in Cyber Security Management within the Faculty of Business and Law, under the supervision of Dr Alexeis Garcia-Perez (Reader in Cybersecurity Management, Faculty of Business and Law), Dr Siraj Shaikh (Reader in Cybersecurity, Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing) and Professor David Morris (Faculty of Business and Law). Gary Madzudzo’s research aims to address cybersecurity incidents within the automotive industry, and focuses mainly on connected vehicles as the core component of the automotive ecosystem.

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