Senator questions automotive cybersecurity, driver privacy
Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey ask automakers for details on car hacking.
The threat of car hacking — and the mainstream media’s fear-mongering over it — has been much greater than the actual reality of vehicles being remotely controlled for evil purposes.
And the concern that car companies and others are hoarding data for pernicious purposes has long been an issue for privacy advocates and conspiracy theorists. Now politicians are getting into the act.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has a long list of questions about car cybersecurity as well driver privacy, and is seeking answers from automakers. The Democratic senator sent letters to 20 automakers asking for details about every incident from the last five years of hackers trying to compromise vehicle electronics, whether there were injuries or damage as a result and if cases were reported to law enforcement officials.
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“As vehicles become more integrated with wireless technology, there are more avenues through which a hacker could introduce malicious code, and more avenues through which a driver’s basic right to privacy could be compromised,” said Markey, a member of the Commerce Committee that oversees automobile policy. “These threats demonstrate the need for robust vehicle security policies to ensure the safety and privacy of our nation’s drivers.”
While Markey’s concerns are well placed — and automakers have been stepping up protecting their cars as connectivity proliferates — he cited a single study in which researchers hacked into two vehicles in 2011 to make his case. He also asked automakers if some of their vehicles are now vulnerable because they include wireless hotspots, while ignoring other ways that cars could be compromised.
But his questions on privacy are perhaps more plausible examples and appropriate as “big data” becomes big business.
Markey voiced concerns over whether navigation systems could record data about drivers that could be used by business and law enforcement. He also wants automakers to divulge how frequently they have provided data about vehicles’ owners to law enforcement, debt collectors and insurance companies.
The senator from Massachusetts would like to determine how much data automakers store and also whether consumers can disable collection of personal data about their driving habits. As an example of potential car company spying, he cited Tesla’s use of remote data clandestinely culled from a New York Times reporter’s test drive to refute some of the claims made in an unfavorable article.
Markey also noted that some dealers can disable a vehicle remotely if the owner falls behind on payments, and he wants to know what percentage of vehicles sold can be remotely stopped.
The Detroit News quoted a representative of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group that representing major automakers, as saying “auto engineers are incorporating security solutions into vehicles from the first stages of design and production, and their security testing never stops.” When pressed on specifics about security measures automakers employ, the representative added that “like many security-oriented groups, we really prefer not to provide lots of details on what automakers are doing to deter hackers.”
The Detroit News also noted that the International Society of Automotive Engineers has established a Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee to examine cybersecurity issues and solutions. The committee is also drafting standards and best practices to safeguard electronic systems from hackers.
The question of who owns and controls a car’s data in still in its “Wild West” phase, however.
“It’s a very young industry,” Andreas Mai, director of product management for connected vehicles at Cisco, told MSN Autos earlier this year. “Everyone wants to get their hands on the data. Automakers want to desperately control the data. The insurance industry wants to monitor drivers. But as a consumer, should I not have the right to decide with whom I share this data?”
[Source: The Detroit News]
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