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February 20, 2015

BMW Issues Security Patch to Avoid Making Hacker Headlines

The connected car revolution is officially upon us. Drivers can now conveniently access the Internet through their cars instead of having to scroll through various applications on their smartphones, which is ultra-convenient. Yet while the connected car has made major leaps and bounds over the past several years, there are still some serious issues preventing it from going mainstream as evidenced by BMW’s latest security discovery.

The luxury car brand recently issued a security patch to avoid what could have been a major disaster if left unresolved. According to researchers working for ADAC, hackers could have tapped into network traffic from various models equipped with ConnectedDrive—a technology that enables drivers to access the Internet—and used that data to send requests to the car; for example,  unlocking doors or rolling down windows.

While BMW was lucky enough to catch and resolve the potential security vulnerability before it caused any significant problems, this incident raises concerns about the lack of security in the connected-car industry. Just take into consideration what happened to the Progressive auto insurance company. The company’s Snapshot device, which is designed to capture users’ driving habits, was said to have security holes that would have allowed hackers to access sensitive driver information or even take over critical vehicle operating functions.  

As this example shows, there is more than sensitive information at stake when analyzing security vulnerabilities in the connected car industry. Criminals can hack into steering and braking systems, for instance, and cause potentially life-threatening accidents.

The good news for the connected-car industry and consumers alike is that many of these security issues can be easily fixed. But first, it’s up to automobile manufacturers to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of hacking and malware.

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