Smart cars a new target for hackers

Fully autonomous self-driving cars are predicted to be in showrooms in just a few years but many models are already so high-tech they are vulnerable to attack by hackers.

A new report from Zurich has highlighted concerns that the increasing level of technology in modern cars – such as automatic parking, collision avoidance and smartphone integration – meant they were increasingly vulnerable.

Various researchers have shown that it is possible to take physical control of some models of vehicle with nothing more than a laptop and a wifi connection.

“Fortunately, at this point in time, only a few cybercriminals are skilled enough to hijack a vehicle using only a laptop,” the report states. “However, as automobiles become more thoroughly wired into the ‘Internet of Things’, it will become increasingly simple for criminals to wreak havoc on the roadways.”

Last year, the Guardian obtained an FBI report that found the US law enforcement agency was worried that driverless technology could prove advantageous to criminals and terrorists in less high-tech ways.

Among the scenarios canvassed were the prospect of getaway car drivers having free reign to open fire on pursuers, as well as cars loaded with explosives being programmed to drive at high speed into a specific location.

“The rate of change in automobile-based information, entertainment, communication and computer-enabled safety technologies means that exposures and risks are multiplying faster than the risks can be fully analysed and quantified,” the report states.

“Risk managers and underwriters will continue to be challenged to respond with creative solutions to this complex and constantly shifting risk landscape.”

To download the report, click here.