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Car makers need to be 'secured by design' in connected new world, opinion

Andrew Till, GM Automotive at Trustonic      

The automotive industry is evolving rapidly. The connected vehicles market is increasingly being seen as a major growth area and according to a report by Strategy&, sales of 5G enabled vehicles are expected to reach 16 million in the EU, US and China by 2030.

As new technologies offer increasingly exciting features, especially for in-vehicle infotainment, consumer purchasing habits look to shift from traditional preferences around speed and aesthetics, to how well vehicles are adapted to our increasingly digital lives.

In-vehicle infotainment is just one of the many possibilities enabled by technological advancements. Real-time traffic flow information, enhanced mapping, in-vehicle payment capabilities and the emergence of environmentally friendly electric vehicles also speak to an industry on the cusp of dramatic change.

Another prominent area in which automotive connectivity is likely to have a huge impact is safety. Whether blind-spot monitoring, rear-view cameras or even vehicles which can autonomously take control to avoid a crash, the ability for technology to keep drivers and other road users safe will continue to change what consumers value in vehicles.

Data gathering

One thing that all these innovations have in common, is that they are only possible by the collection, storage and use of huge amounts of data. This raises new security concerns, not only will consumers value their physical safety, but also the protection of their personal and biometric data.

Many of the use-cases being touted will see cameras and sensors built into vehicles to monitor drivers’ and passengers’ behaviour.

Much of the data captured in the vehicle will have to be shared with external parties as the vehicle communicates with other vehicles and road infrastructure such as traffic lights in order to avoid accidents.

A recent study by Deloitte suggests that consumers in Europe and the US are concerned about the concept of biometric data being used in this way. It will therefore become paramount for automakers to communicate to consumers the benefits of this kind of technology, as well as making the necessary assurances that their data will remain secure and protected from potential misuse.

The increasing digitisation of our vehicles may also lead to other security issues.

Malicious actors exploiting vulnerabilities using cellular networks, physical connections or Wi-Fi will become a new threat in the automotive space.

Not only could such vulnerabilities be used by thieves to help find new ways to steal vehicles, but also the data that they contain such as trips, location data, entertainment preferences and even financial information and physical characteristics, such as fingerprints.

Such personal data can be used to compromise multiple services or even to steal someone’s identity which can have far reaching and long-lasting consequences.  

'Secure by design'

While automotive connectivity is going to bring many positive changes, it is crucial that manufacturers also address the new cybersecurity challenges that will arise to attract consumers.

It is crucial for automakers to take a “secure by design” approach, ensuring the necessary cybersecurity technology is built into all connected vehicles.

Research indicates that security considerations are already impacting consumer purchasing habits.

According to IDC, 58.6% of people in the US stated that they would consider paying a premium for a brand that demonstrated leading cybersecurity protection and monitoring within their vehicles. As these become more network and software defined, cybersecurity credentials will become an important differentiator for brands and retailers.

The advent of 5G and related technologies presents a huge revenue opportunity for automakers and retailers alike: connected vehicle and smart transport applications have the potential to bring concrete benefits, including making travel safer, providing real time information and a strong sustainability impact with electric vehicles.

However, the market will only be able to truly soar if security considerations are taken seriously in the design of new vehicles and communicated to consumers.

As consumers gain a greater understanding of connected vehicles and what to expect for the future generation of cars, they will also become more conscious of security issues – and will therefore want their future vehicle to be designed with security front of mind.

This has been a trend across the technology sector for some time, with brands eager to promote their privacy and security credentials to stand out in a competitive market and importantly to build high levels of trust with their target audience.

While standards are being implemented to drive this security-led approach, this needs to run through every part of the organisation, from software design to supply chain management: as automotive manufacturers mostly rely on third party vendors to provide software and hardware components for their vehicles, there is an added risk of introducing vulnerabilities through these elements.

Now more than ever, there is a great opportunity for brands and retailers to understand consumers’ expectations and design vehicles and their software with a security-first approach. Or perhaps put another way, those brands that do not build trust and confidence with consumers may well struggle to unlock the full revenue potential of the connected future.

Author: Andrew Till, GM Automotive at Trustonic      

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