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Minister Warns of Cyber Hacking Threat to Driverless Cars

Transport minister Claire Perry has warned that the risk of cyber-criminals hacking driverless cars and smart motorway systems could present a barrier to future adoption.

She told the House of Commons Transport Committee on Monday that the government is currently compiling a regulatory review looking at all potential issues around the new technologies being developed in this area – due to report on 29 January.

The government has also set up real world trials of the technology with certain parameters, for example mandating that there is a qualified driver in the vehicle and that it must be “clear that there is a trial being undertaken,” she added.

However, cybersecurity concerns are on the government’s radar.

“The more we move to technologically assisted forms of transport – whether it’s smart motorways or driver-assisted vehicles – there is also a risk of, sort of, cyber hacking if you like, so we’re mindful of that,” Perry told the committee.

It must be added that cybersecurity isn’t the biggest potential barrier to driverless cars. Legal liability, insurance and other drivers’ perception of the technology are all being investigated in the government’s report as a priority.

Security experts welcomed Perry’s comments.

“Security or privacy, either way, ‘smart’ cars definitely need to have better encryption and security by design,” F-Secure security advisor, Sean Sullivan, told Infosecurity.

“Some of the privacy concerns that may exist can be mitigated by better security and vice versa. So it’s good to see that ministers are asking such questions. It could be quite some time before self-driving cars are on the roads, but there will be no stopping increasing amounts of assisted-driving and all of the technology associated.”

Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cybersecurity practice, added that the risk of cyber-attack will always increase the more we depend on certain technologies.

“Right now we are at a nascent stage in the development of connected cars and now is the right time to make sure we develop the right legal, insurance and technological frameworks and controls to make sure we are able to capitalize on the benefits they will bring,” he argued.

“Governments, manufacturers and the security industries need to work together now to make sure we build the right route to success for automated vehicles so the UK is not left behind.”

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