Ford CEO is at the forefront of the new self-driving automotive technology. I have seen his speeches talking about the advantages of autonomous cars, and it is quite impressive. Actually, I consider CEO Mark Fields a visionary at Ford and in of all business today. I would put him up there with Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Even though he is not a billionaire he sees a future of possibilities and what we may do with it.
Mark Fields is concerned about the development of this new technology and rightly so. There are a lot of cars on the highway and they can be a cause of many injuries and death when improperly handled. So we need to be careful what we are doing. There are several other car companies that have stated they will be moving full speed ahead with autonomous vehicles. My question is what are the security implications of a society filled with these computer controlled and networked devices.
Who Controls The Controller?
The first question I believe that needs to be addressed is the issue of security of the current crop of vehicles that are on the road today. I have written about this before but I want to reiterate. We know that many of these IOT Internet of Things vehicles are not properly secured today. Does Ford CEO fields address these things?
We also know there have been experiments where hackers have taken control of a vehicle remotely and did things like turn the AC on and off, control the power steering and the brakes and accelerator. This is scary stuff. But let’s add another wrinkle into the mix.
We have taken note that ISIS terrorists have been using human drivers to hijack trucks in Europe in order to crash them into pedestrians and cause death and mayhem. What if they did not need a person at all to hijack a vehicle? They could just take it over remotely. What if they took over multiple vehicles at one time?
Now let’s take this a step further. We have a situation where there are many autonomous vehicles and even just computer controlled vehicles on the road. They are networked together and they are reachable just like anything else on a network. And now add in that many of these systems are inherently unsecure, and you have a very serious situation on your hands.
I am not one to be a fear monger. And I believe there are too many scare tactics in the cybersecurity industry as it is. But at the same time, we must recognize a serious threat when we see it otherwise we cannot deal with it properly. Andy Grove famously said, “only the paranoid survive.” A good lesson in this context, however, I do not point out this problem without any hope. I believe there is a place for computerized and automated vehicles in our future. We just need to be putting as much energy and money into making them secure. If the current crop of vehicles is any indication we have not done this. I believe it will be from leadership like Ford CEO Fields that will help us lead the way.