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Is Digital Crime the Next Big Threat to Vehicle Owners?

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While the concept of driverless vehicles was challenging to visualize even a few years ago, there has been a significant increase in funding into research for driverless vehicles in recent times.

Also known as self-driving cars, automated cars, and autonomous vehicles, driverless vehicles are designed to travel without human operation. Used for personal and commercial purposes, driverless vehicles use a combination of onboard sensors and connectivity to a central hub, enabling them to navigate freely.

The Benefits

It is believed that driverless vehicles will save the UK economy nearly £34 billion a year simply from a logistics standpoint, so it’s not a surprise that many vehicle manufacturers are interested in pursuing this ground-breaking modern technology. Renowned vehicle manufacturers currently developing driverless vehicle technology include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, and Volvo, alongside Google.

Not only would driverless vehicles allow for greater efficiency and considerable cost savings for commercial firms, but vehicles that can operate at all hours of the day would enable company employees to be utilized in performing other tasks, potentially improving productivity in the workplace.

Why are they Vulnerable?

While the cost savings and freeing up of the workforce are strong positive factors towards investing in driverless technology, the possibility of a data breach or attack should not be overlooked. As with any technology, there is always a possibility of a threat or hack, particularly with any system connected to an external source of data. While manufacturers know that driverless vehicles need to be equipped with a robust security system, it is not possible to guarantee 100% safety.

As driverless vehicles become more accessible, tracking and monitoring each vehicle comes the challenge of tracking and monitoring. While you might assume that large corporations would more attract cyber hackers with vast wealth as targets for an attack, smaller businesses are often preyed upon as easy targets.

Not having sufficient knowledge or resources to protect themselves from attack makes small businesses an ideal target for cybercriminals. Tending to be without the levels of security and preventative resources available to larger companies, smaller businesses are unable to respond to threats with the same speed and efficiency. In fact, in 2016 alone, it was estimated that 1 in 10 people or businesses attacked by hackers were targeted simply due to the lack of provision made for their digital security arrangements.

Why Target Vehicles?

As driverless vehicles are still a relatively new concept and continue to be under development, they are more susceptible to attack than other types of technology. Regular ‘manned’ vehicles are not vulnerable in the same way due to the driver’s presence. Current security technologies are largely geared towards the presence of a human being as a deterrent for theft and hacks. To this end, physical security measures have become more advanced over recent years, with CCTV cameras being a prime example. In the aftermath of the 2011 London riots, CCTV helped catch more than 5,000 thieves and bring them to justice.

In addition, once a vehicle has been broken into, it’s very easy to remove it from the scene quickly and unobtrusively. Bystanders wouldn’t usually take a second look if a driverless vehicle seemingly went about its scheduled routine. Indeed, it would be difficult to determine if it had been hacked at all due to the difficulty of identifying the correct path the vehicle should be on and if it had deviated from this. However, as we aware, hackers can operate from any corner of the world and in complete secrecy, so deterrents such as CCTV are no longer a viable distraction.

The Bottom Line

With autonomous technology such as driverless vehicles becoming more and more prevalent in our society, the risk of cyber-crime increases exponentially. All technologies are guaranteed to go through stages of trial and error regarding security, regardless of how revolutionary they are.

Ultimately, it only takes one small error or flaw in the system to turn a minor security breach into a serious collapse. Similarly, with data theft and many other forms of theft, lack of knowledge and resources are critical factors determining why hackers attack the average person and business. While driverless technology is improved upon, this type of chance opportunity will not be ignored by unscrupulous individuals who thrive on exploiting the vulnerabilities of both businesses and individuals

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