Brits fear their car could be controlled by hackers

As the London Motor Show is set to showcase the latest in motoring tech, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is revealing people’s fears about the security risks of today’s  ‘connected’ vehicles. Their study reveals over half of Brits fear their car could be accessed and controlled by a hacker. I suspect it is no different in Ireland.

The latest advances in motoring technology provide important benefits, giving drivers alerts about vehicle faults and servicing as well as insight into vehicle performance.  However, as the latest data from motor industry professional body, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) suggests, many drivers and passengers are unaware of the security risks of today’s connected vehicles. 50 per cent of people surveyed by the IMI said they aren’t aware that their car is open to cyber-attacks, much like a home computer, and in fact can be controlled and stolen using Wi-Fi technology by anyone  accessing the onboard computer systems.

However, 51 per cent of respondents said that they do fear their car being accessed and controlled by a hacker.  Almost the same proportion of drivers and passengers also said they were concerned that their car could be stolen using Wi-Fi technology.

A key factor in ensuring the security of automotive data is knowing that the technicians working on a vehicle are properly qualified and adhere to a professional standard.  This is probably why 86 per cent of people surveyed by the IMI believe vehicle technicians should be qualified and regulated to carry out repairs.

Steve Nash FIMI, Chief Executive at the IMI, said: “Computer diagnostics are becoming commonplace in the motor industry today but the bulk of the work in servicing is still of a mechanical nature. The technological revolution in the automotive sector is shifting and broadening the skills needed by a maintenance technician to that of a systems analyst.

“With the sector currently unregulated and no national standards in place it’s not always possible to track the people who may have access to our personal information. Car technology will continue to develop which means it’s more important than ever that vehicle technicians have not only the mechanical skills but the ICT skills to be able to service and maintain these vehicles in the safest possible way with an acute awareness of their legal and ethical responsibilities when accessing vehicle data.”

In a study commissioned by the IMI in 2016, Professor Jim Saker at Loughborough University, said: “One of the major issues being addressed within the industry is that of cyber security within cars. The ability to influence the running of a vehicle remotely is available now, and the potential for criminal activity utilising vehicles is yet to have been fully exploited.

“Vehicle technicians have access to all of the cars operating systems and data communication portals. Under the current regulatory arrangements, there is no registration of technicians, no security checks and no tests of competence.”

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