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Automotive industry races to address issue of cyber security

As automakers rapidly adopt connected and automated technologies, the race is on to protect these vehicles from cyber attacks and computer viruses.

Among manufacturers, Toyota Motor aims to install connected technologies by 2020 in all its noncommercial vehicles for sale in Japan and the U.S., starting with the new Corolla hatchback and Crown sedan. With these technologies, vehicles can “communicate” with drivers, theoretically making driving safer and more efficient.

In the US, Subaru too announced its vision to make connected car services available in more than 80 per cent of new vehicles sold in Japan, the US and Canada by 2022. Vulnerability to cyber attacks is prompting companies, from suppliers to insurers, to develop protective solutions. Some jurisdictions and industry groups are also preparing guidelines for the market which could draw more players into the market.

In 2015, two researchers succeeded in remotely turning off a Jeep Cherokee engine while it was being driven, which resulted in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalling 1.4 million such vehicles in the US.

Cars made by Toyota, Ford Motor and Tesla are among those being tested by hackers in organized experiments. Hackers were able to send commands to the vehicles’ network to control braking and accelerating, potentially take over keys and certificates, wiretap networks, and even overwrite commands from drivers.

Auto parts and audiovisual products maker Harman International, an American subsidiary of Samsung, is working with carmakers to create software to block such attacks. It hopes to see its automotive cyber security software adopted in some vehicles in the US and Europe by the end of this year.

The software protects these vehicles by putting up shields to ward off attacks via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, inter-vehicle networks and other entry points that hackers can penetrate. Its technology detects electrical signals in these networks, with a special algorithm that disables the ability of automobiles to react to false commands. The company also provides automakers with cyber security analysis.

Other  parts suppliers have also been investing in in cyber security startups focused on connected cars. Japan’s Denso invested in US based automotive security companies DellfFer and ActiveScaler earlier this year. Germany-based Continental acquired Israeli startup Argus Cyber Security.

Insurance companies, too, are getting in on the act. Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance agreed in April to work on research in the area with White Motion, a joint venture between Japanese autoparts maker Calsonic Kansei and French cyber security company Quarkslab. It hopes to be able to come up with standards for insurance payouts as a result of cyber security breaches by 2019. Nikkei Asian Review

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