In typical tech giant style, Tesla shook the industry with the announcement of their new electric semi truck. This semi-autonomous vehicle adds to the list of high-tech cars and trucks taking on the market. But with abilities like these, how does security factor in?
Trucks.com reports that as the industry primes for fully autonomous trucks, companies also need to be prepared for cybersecurity risks. In short, the smarter cars become, the more at risk they are for cyber criminals.
“If you move to autonomous navigation systems or even just the usual driver-controlled navigation systems, they’re all vulnerable to attack,” Jeffry Carr of the Suits and Spooks cybersecurity conference series said in a statement to Trucks.com. “You can fool the receiver in the vehicle to lock onto the fake codes instead of the authentic GPS codes and reprogram the mapping coordinates for where the vehicle is headed.”
The task before cyber security experts is considerable, especially as more everyday objects — cars, TVs, even toasters — join the Internet of Things. According to the International Data Corporation, by 1.7 MB of data will be created every second, by every person, from now until 2020.
And this comes with major consequences. On a smaller business scale, cybersecurity is more straightforward. While over 30% of people never even back up their hard drives, this is one of the IT best practices that can tighten up a company’s security. But when it comes to multinational corporations with computers driving themselves around, it might not be as simple.
“Because trucks are depended upon to transport goods and services, if you hold a fleet of trucks for ransom, you’re more inclined to get a quick payment because those organizations can’t afford to have their trucks stalled for a day or two,” Monique Lance of Argus Cyber Security said in a statement to Trucks.com. “The costs of not getting those goods delivered is very high.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, freight value is expected to increase from $882 per ton in 2007 to $1,377 in 2040. So, as autonomous trucks take to the road and cargo value goes up, the industry will need to keep up with this risk.
Lance told Trucks.com that Argus Cyber Security urges trucking companies to be proactive. This involves including cybersecurity measures in the manufacturing process and programming the truck to recognize when its system has been compromised.
Trucks.com reports that white-hat hackers have experimented with autonomous passenger cars to demonstrate these vulnerabilities. For example, in 2015, two white-hat hackers took control of a Jeep Cherokee’s computer system while a Wired magazine reporter was driving it. This incident led to a mass recall by Jeep and more awareness of the issue. IHS Markit analyst Jeremy Carlson told Trucks.com that this can be educational for the industry, while also remaining concerning.
“That’s good for the industry to help address these challenges, but with the attention on the white-hat side, there’s growing awareness among people looking to do something malicious.”
So while futurists like Elon Musk are determined to make self-driving cars and autonomous trucks a reality, these cyber security risks will have to be addressed before other drivers feel comfortable seeing them in the lane next to them.