The Problem of Autonomous Cars Getting Hacked

It’s only a matter of time until autonomous cars are littered across the roads. In fact, it’s been projected that the annual sales of autonomous cars will blow up to 230,000 by 2025 and up to 11.8 million by 2035. The IHS even predicts that by 2050 nearly all vehicles, both private and commercial, will be self-driving cars.

autonWhether you like it or not, it appears that this future is inevitable. But many experts are predicting a huge problem that could come with this transition: a new wave of hacker hijacking.

In an interview with Automotive News, Wil Rockall— director of information protection at consulting company KPMG in England— says, “A hacker could redirect a whole bunch of traffic to gridlock a city [or even] kidnap people. The risk goes from being one of human error on the part of the driver or road user to being human error on the part of a developer.”

This essentially means that all drivers will be at risk for losing control of the vehicle that they are driving, a problem that we do not need to worry about at all today. Of course, many companies and developers are already issuing statements saying that they will be solidifying this technology and that people have no reason to worry.

But isn’t that what they always say? And aren’t they always wrong?

Just last week, there was a huge celebrity hacking scandal in which dozens of celebrities nude photos were stolen and released to the public. Before that, Target was hacked as thousands upon thousands of dollars were stolen from customers’ bank accounts.

Even the government— which is supposed to be the most secure of all “organizations”— was hacked by Edward Snowden just a few years ago.

autodWith all of that in mind, why should we all feel secure in the potential harm of autonomous car hacking? Unlike information and photos and even money, being able to hack into a car’s computer system could actually cost us our life out on dangerous roads. Even worse, we could potentially become far more susceptible to terrorist attacks.

Andrew Miller, a chief technical officer at Thatcham Research says, to limit hacker risk, autonomous cars will need “much more security” and that requires constant monitoring. “As fast as people come up with software and encryption processes, the criminals come up with ways around them.”

Unfortunately, as we all know, security is often not proactive, but instead reactive to the criminals that always seem to crack through. Personally, that is not something I want to worry about as I’m cruising down the highway in a 2,000 pound missile.

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