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‘More effort needed’ to beat car hackers

Fears that smart cars could be cyber crime targets.

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Smart cars, allowing drivers to access all kinds of digital services from the cockpit, are all very well. But could they be hacked?

The UK Government seems to think so, and is now issuing guidance calling on car manufacturers to beef up their cars’ security against cyber attacks.

Connected technology in cars is growing in sophistication virtually by the week – drivers can now select their favourite places in the navigation, have messages sent to them through the infotainment screen, and download their phone contacts into the car’s systems.

But this connectivity could also provide an open invitation to hackers – to access personal information, steal cars that use keyless entry systems, or even take control of the car with potentially disastrous consequences. So the Government has now issued guidance, calling on car manufacturers to design more effective protection against cyber crime into their vehicles, and to “design out” hacking.

Smart insurance

The call for more protection is being made as the Government progresses its Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill. Announced in the Queen’s Speech, this Bill aims to create a new framework for insurance of self-driving vehicles. Ministers are concerned that should the technology in smart cars fail, owners are protected by their insurance.

Transport minister Lord Callanan admits that the risks of smart car technology being hacked are currently low, but adds that it is important to ensure the public is protected. “Whether we’re turning vehicles into wi-fi connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it is important that they are protected against cyber-attacks,” he says.

“That’s why it’s essential all parties involved in the manufacturing and supply chain are provided with a consistent set of guidelines that support this global industry.”

The guidance has been welcomed by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT).  “A consistent set of guidelines is an important step towards ensuring the UK can be among the first – and safest – of international markets to grasp the benefits of this exciting new technology,” says SMMT CEO Mike Hawes.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.