Feds Look to Study In-Car Cyber Security

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【Summary】The government is looking into the security of the connected car.

Original Timothy Healey    Jan 27, 2017 3:10 PM PT
Feds Look to Study In-Car Cyber Security

With cars becoming ever more connected and complex, it stands to reason that there might be serious security challenges ahead.

That's what lawmakers are concerned about, as well.

Which is why a bipartisan bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives this week that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to work on the study of cyber security in cars. Considering that up to 90 percent of vehicles will have in-car connectivity by 2020, it's perhaps not surprising that the government would take a look at any potential dangers involving in-car connectivity.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson (R, S.C.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D, CA), is called The Security and Privacy in Your Car Study Act. The intent is to eventually create a standard for safety in connected cars.

If passed, the bill will require the NHTSA to work with the Defense Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, SAE International and academics, along with automakers themselves, on the issue.

The goals include isolating in-vehicle software systems, preventing and detecting hacks, determining best practices for data storage and working a timeline for implementing any standards.

"It's something of a daunting challenge to balance disruptive technological innovation with federal safety and privacy protections," Rep. Wilson and Rep. Lieu said in an opinion piece they co-wrote that appeared in The Hill in April 2016. "As a result, all applicable government agencies need to be on the same page when assessing a cyber threat or measuring a cyberattack."

Both automotive and tech companies, including tech giants like Apple and Google, are investing heavily in connected-car technology. And given that news reports suggest modern cars can be hacked – Wired famously hacked into a Jeep a few years back – it's only natural that increased connectivity could lead to increased vulnerability. That Wired study led to a major recall of 1.4 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles.

"The public and private sectors must work together to ensure that a car can never become a weapon," the congressmen wrote in their op-ed in The Hill. "It remains critical that the federal government leverage the expertise and research that the private sector has already invested in this critical issue."


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