Smart cars pose a serious privacy risk, says US senator

Cars are getting more and more sophisticated, incorporating features or integrating with our smartphones. They might also be receiving some of weaknesses of mobile devices, with more frightening consequences. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts thinks that increasingly sophisticated high-tech cars are also getting more vulnerable to hacking, with all their wireless connectivity and access to personal information. And the even more worrying part is that, in the rush to put these technologies inside vehicles, car makers might not be aware of the dangers and might be foregoing stricter security measures.

Security and privacy in our smartphones and tablets are already a hot topic, given the recent bout of whistleblowing and revelations. Hacking of smartphones and tablets already yield valuable information, information that can be used against the person or for the benefit of a criminal. That same situation when applied to vehicles, however, may have graver consequences.

Researchers have already proven how some smart cars can be easily hacked to not only obtain information but in some cases even remotely control certain features of the car. With more and more such features becoming available on smartphones and even smartwatches, the options and venues for hacking into such systems only broadens. Many models today already incorporate some form of WiFi connectivity and it is only a matter of time when hacking into these become a common activity among the less conscientious members of society.

Senator Markey sent questions to 20 car makers, interrogating them about their security practices as they relate to in-vehicle technology and the results weren't impressive and might be even downright frightening. According to the senator, some "did not seem to understand" the lawmaker's inquiries. Others revealed rather inadequate security measures. Some weren't even aware or did not disclose details about previous hacking incidents.

All hope is not lost, however, as the situation hasn't missed the attention of advocacy groups and even car makers themselves. Such groups have been petitioning automakers to set up a more stringent standard for security practices and some car companies have grouped together to voluntarily adopt certain policies. Unsurprisingly, Senator Markey wants to go beyond voluntary commitment and is calling for government action to impose things such as regulatory standards, proper driver information about data collection, as well as options to opt out of them without totally crippling features.

SOURCE: Washington Post