autonomous car security

Could hackers drive off with an autonomous vehicle?

Self driving cars used to be the stuff of Science Fiction. Now, estimates indicate that up to 10 million autonomous vehicles will be cruising across the planet’s roads by 2020. The truth, however, is that this type of vehicle comes with a lot of cyber security risks. What do we mean by that?

Cyber Security Risks

Imagining a hacker driving off with a self driving vehicle may appear to be a bit over imaginative, but the idea is actually conceivable for one reason; vehicle autonomy is all about coming up with the right algorithms. Self driving vehicles rely heavily on the advances that have been made over the past few years in Artificial Intelligence.

Software is Vulnerable

We have already noted that vehicle autonomy largely has to do with developments in software. What this means is that the same threats that are present today in computers around the globe will also be present when autonomous vehicles become widespread.

If you have been following our posts, you will have read our article on some of the network threats that people need to be aware of. Some of the most common types of malware that are floating around out there include;

  • Ransomware
  • Trojans
  • Worms
  • Viruses
  • Adware
  • Spyware
  • Rootkits

Vehicles held at ransom

The idea that someone could, at some point, take over a vehicle and go on a virtual joy ride, with its occupants still inside, is rather scary. However, it could very well happen in the near future. If you have read our article on Ransomware, you will know that this type of attack usually manifests itself in the encryption of all the data that is on a computer.

You are then required to pay a given amount to the cyber criminals to be able to regain access to your important data. Something that is similar to this could happen with regards to autonomous vehicles. The prospect, we have to admit, is rather scary.

Locked in your vehicle

There is every chance that when self driving vehicles become really prevalent, hackers will look for ways through which they can lock people out of their vehicles. Worse still, they could also find ways through which they can remotely lock you in your vehicle; thus turning it into a prison of sorts. You would then be asked to pay ransom in order to be allowed to get out.

Solutions

The good news is that all is not doom and gloom as far as self driving vehicles are concerned. In fact, the issue of security is one that companies that have been working on autonomous vehicles are well aware of.

Reduced connectivity to the cloud

One of the things that can help reduce the risks of hacking with regards to self driving vehicles is reducing reliance on the cloud. A computer system is, it has to be said, only as vulnerable as it gets exposed to the many threats that are to found on the internet. If there is no internet connectivity, then there would really be no way through which a hacker could hijack an autonomous vehicle.

Legislative framework

Last year, the US Transportation Department came up with a policy document that was meant to regulate the adoption of self driving vehicles. It contains guidelines for the designing, manufacturing, testing and deployment of automated vehicles on the United States’ roads.

The way forward

Although government regulation will likely help pave the way for the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, the onus for the safety of the driving public largely lies in the hands of companies such as Uber, Google, Toyota, Yandex and others, which have been at the forefront of the impending automotive revolution.

Free consultation with a Cisco certified expert

Many of the threats that are now rife across the internet can largely be avoided. If you are wondering how you can build an impervious network, don’t hesitate to get in touch with you. We will hook you up with a Cisco certified expert who will walk you through all the options that are available to you in this regard. The good this is that all our consultations are completely free of charge!