Are Car Tracking Devices Safe and Secure?

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In April, the European Parliament passed a new eCall law which states that, from 2018, every new car will contain a black box tracking device that automatically alerts the emergency services in the event of a crash. Even if nobody in the vehicle is able to speak, the device will still relay the exact location, time, direction of travel, the scale of the impact and whether airbags have been deployed.

This kind of development is testimony to how much technology is positively advancing daily life and it is great to see innovative solutions like this being brought to the market with the capabilities to save lives. However, if we delve a little deeper, there are some concerns which should be reviewed ahead of the 2018 deadline.

Firstly, the devices will use cellular networks to send messages to the emergency services in the event of an accident. A recent OpenSignal report revealed that while on the motorway, mobile phone users were unable to get a 3G or 4G signal 24% of the time. With mobile coverage being so poor in many parts of the UK, and especially along major motorways, questions arise as to whether this will even work. This is a serious consideration and one which needs to be looked into before money and time is spent fitting devices into vehicles.

Another important area of concern, and one which shouldn’t be taken lightly, is the cybersecurity risk, especially with regards to the privacy of the driver’s data. We are seeing daily in the media that hackers are finding new ways to steal data through sophisticated attacks. If the automotive industry isn’t well prepared, it could be the next victim.

If tracking devices are going to be in every vehicle, it is integral to ask how secure these devices are. Cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent and increasingly advanced. Hackers seem to be going above and beyond to manipulate devices and steal data. If these tracking devices aren’t secure enough then they could be hacked next, meaning that the location data of your car could be found and tracked. Criminals, imposters and even a jealous partner could even use this information to see when you are away from home and what you are up to, which is a scary thought.

As well as hackers, commercial companies such as insurers could access the data and use the information for your policy. While some people can opt into having a device in their car that their insurance companies can track, with a device like this, it might make opting out impossible. With this in mind, it’s clear that devices needs to be secure and serious attention paid to ensuring these black boxes are safe for us to have in our vehicles. The devices should also be isolated from the other connected elements in the car to ensure it cannot be accessed if someone were to compromise other systems.

Whilst it is reassuring that the EU has strict data protection laws, which make it harder for drivers’ data to be collected, all it takes is the operating company to update its terms and conditions and your data can be made available. These tracking devices will significantly change the industry and, if all of the issues discussed are addressed and stringent security measures put in place, we could see lives being saved as a result. 

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