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How startups protect your cars against hackers

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How startups protect your cars against hackers

How are cars protected against cyber attacks? The manufacturers appear to be closed-minded, but the first successful attacks have taken place. This is an opportunity for startups.

The cybersecurity of highly connected cars will be a huge market in the future. Getty Images / lupengyu

The cybersecurity landscape in modern vehicles is becoming increasingly complex as cars evolve into sophisticated, connected systems on wheels. The integration of digital technology into automobiles has not only improved functionality and user experience, but also expanded the attack surface for cybercriminals. There is a fear that criminals will hijack your own car. But the often outdated infrastructure is also not equipped for attacks.

A team of Duke University In the USA it was recently possible to outwit a car’s radar systems. They didn’t even have to have access to the cars’ hardware. They simply tricked the system into giving false radar signatures. They were able to make vehicles disappear from the radar, but also make phantom cars appear. Accidents can occur this way.

Hacker attacks on cars have been happening for years

It is not the first successful attack on the highly complex systems of modern cars. It has been known for years that keyless entry and ignition systems are easy to defeat. For some cars it was enough to simply amplify the key’s signal. This made it easy for thieves to take over the vehicles without having to steal the key themselves.

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The attacks are already costing the auto industry a lot of money. Last year, Korean manufacturer Hyundai had to pay out over $200 million to angry customers. Instructions appeared on Tiktok on how to take over the manufacturer’s cars using a screwdriver and a USB cable. What was worse, however, was the damage to the company’s image.

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The manufacturers are not idle, but they are facing a problem. The technology in their cars usually comes from the supplier industry and is not developed directly in-house. It is a Herculean task to check every line of code in a car for current or future attack possibilities.

Startups help manufacturers

This task is being taken on by more and more startups that have discovered the lucrative market for themselves. C2A Security addresses the problem of ensuring that the software used in the vehicles is actually secure. They work with car manufacturers throughout the entire development process and ensure that they have digital control over every line of code – from planning to production.

But it’s not just the hardware in the cars that is vulnerable. It is now relatively well insured. A team of researchers recently managed to get full access to the software and autonomous driving systems of a Tesla. However, they had to remove the main circuit board from the car to do this, which is probably not possible in everyday life.

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But the communication between the car and the manufacturer’s servers is vulnerable. The danger here is that hackers can access the data and also that they are able to manipulate updates that come from the manufacturer. The startup Upstream Security provides a cloud-based platform that secures connected vehicle fleets by using big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to monitor and detect threats in advance.

As cars become more connected and autonomous, the importance of cybersecurity increases, making it an essential aspect of automotive design and maintenance. This opens up a billion-dollar market for startups. The more complex systems become, the more external help manufacturers will need.

Don Dahlmann has been a journalist for over 25 years and has been in the automotive industry for over ten years. Every Monday you can read his “Torque” column here, which takes a critical look at the mobility industry.

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