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Qualified technicians could be key to tackling cyber attack threat

Prof Jim Saker

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has responded to the Government cyber hacking guidelines and called for 'qualified technicians' to help combat the issue.

Following the announcement last week by Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Transport, that new guidelines for manufacturers of internet-connected cars are being put in place to protect motorists from cyber hackers, the IMI has called for equal focus on the people who work on these vehicles too.

Research conducted by the motor industry professional body earlier this year suggested that many drivers and passengers are unaware of the security risks of connected vehicles.

According to the IMI, half of the people surveyed said they aren’t aware that their car is open to cyber-attacks, and can be controlled and stolen using wifi by anyone accessing the onboard computer systems.

In what it states as a key factor, the IMI has said that properly qualified technicians, adhering to a professional standard, can ensure the security of automotive data. 

Of those surveyed, 86% believe vehicle technicians should be qualified and regulated to carry out repairs. However, the government has not addressed this issue in its latest guidelines.

In a study commissioned by the IMI in 2016, Loughborough University's Professor Jim Saker (pictured) said: “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.”

IMI’s chief executive Steve Nash FIMI said: “Computer diagnostics, vehicle programming and software updates are commonplace in the motor industry today. 

“However, 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. 

“We are working hard to get government to address this area as well as the creation of systems at the manufacturing stage, so that motorists have confidence that they are not at risk.”

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