© ginasanders General | October 01, 2015

The connected car: Possibilities and concerns, side by side

Connected cars will lead to new opportunities - in areas of safety and of comfort. At the same time, there have already been some reports about security issues.
Do you remember Evertiq writing about the young student sparking fear in the auto community when he, armed with a home made remote controller, managed to start the windscreen wipers, lock and unlock doors, remote start the engine and even get the lights blinking on a car? Now, with cars connected to the Internet, issues like these could occur more frequently.

Today we see a situation where most cars, at least in the premium segment, are being connected to the Internet. Tomas Olovsson, Associate Professor at Chalmers and researchers in automotive safety, believes that – in the foreseeable future – cars using the internet could become self-reliant in traffic.

By designing computer architecture right from the start, with several layers of protection, the risks can be minimized
- In even shorter terms, within five years, I think we have cars that can assist the driver by refusing to perform certain commands that are potentially dangerous, such as dangerous lane changes or overtaking, where the car through communication with the environment knows that a meeting will occur soon.

So far so good. But this technology, like pretty much every technology, can also be misused for completely different purposes. In another notable case last summer, researchers showed that they could hack a car via the mobile network, which led to Fiat-Chrysler having to perform a (rather costly, I would think) software update of some 1.4 million cars.

In the future, with more and more critical functions that are software-dependent, it will become even more pressing to manage updates safely from a distance to keep the costs down and the potential for security breaches to a minimum.

In his thesis "On Securing the Connected Car", Chalmers researcher Pierre Kleberger conducted a survey of existing communication channels in a connected car, and analysed how these can be secured.

Each open communication way is a possible risk of intrusion, but by designing computer architecture right from the start, with several layers of protection, the risks can be minimized. The dissertation also proposed protocols to make secure software updates over the Internet.

- In addition to routine updates, there should also be the possibility to perform diagnostics for unforeseen stops in a safe manner. If you are standing with your vehicle at the roadside, the assistance company can troubleshoot the car before they send out a technician and ensure that the right equipment to fix the error are provided, Pierre Kleberger says.
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