‘In-car Internet Could Threaten Automotive Industry’

Jay Decenella, IT audit expert
January 12, 2012 /

The emerging alliance between car manufacturers and IT companies to turn cars into internet gateways poses a potential threat to the automotive industry, according to McAfee’s chief technology officer.

“With Ericsson forecasting 50 billion IP-connected devices by 2020, up from 1 billion just a year ago, KPMG’s report into connected cars come as no surprise. But as in-car internet becomes a reality, it exposes the automotive industry to the same threats as any other consumer device,” said Raj Samani.

Samani’s statement came after accounting and consulting firm KPMG released the Global Automotive Executive Survey 2012, which was based on a survey of 200 automotive executives, 34 percent of whom intend to collaborate with technology and IT companies to access new technology and products.

Moreover, KPMG’s survey showed that over a third of car executives expect that consumers’ purchasing decisions over the next five years will be driven by whether the car they purchase has internet connectivity and built-in technologies such as navigation with live traffic update, voice recognition and access to smartphones through steering wheel controls and the dashboard.

Furthermore, over a third (32%) of car executives expect original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to control the revenue streams linked to the built-in connectivity and a quarter (25%) expect IT and technology industries such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and LG to control the revenue streams by 2025.

“This illustrates the growing importance of connectivity ‘on the go’ for consumers in their vehicles and brings the next generation of fully built-in ‘infotainment’ car systems one step closer to the horizon,” KPMG said.

Samani added: “The industry has form. The first remote keyless entry systems did not implement any security and were easily compromised. As more and more digital technology is introduced into automobiles, the threat of malicious software and hardware manipulation increases. Wireless devices like web-based vehicle-immobilisation systems that can remotely disable a car could be used maliciously to disable cars belonging to unsuspecting owners.”

According to the McAfee CTO, the attackers are more attracted to the infotainment system since “it promises to be an area that closely integrates with an individual’s personalised preferences or data.”

“When that happens, there is the opportunity for financial gain from the right information at the right time. Infotainment systems often run standard software for embedded devices that is widely available, whereas other embedded units in a vehicle run mainly proprietary or specialised software,” Samani said.


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