You can’t walk in to a new car showroom these days without getting pitched on the latest and greatest technology by a hip 20-something salesperson gripping a smartphone.
Test driving a car used to be all about the ride. But today’s prospective buyers also consider the smartphone connectivity, GPS functionality and Internet access inside the cabin.
Cars have become Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A new Chevy Silverado reports its mileage and other statistics up to a corporate network, and the truck owner gets alerts about the vehicle. The odometer can be read on a Web browser anytime, anywhere. The salesperson will show you … on a smartphone.
Where there are computers, there will be hackers.
A Wired story last summer reported that hackers were able to target Jeep Cherokees and remotely take control of any of thousands of those 4x4s and do anything from play with the windshield wipers and other dashboard controls to cutting off the transmission. Another Wired story earlier this month reported that researchers were able to disable a Corvette’s brakes in a proof-of-concept hack.
Does all that sound like a nightmare? Maybe. But it is also a huge opportunity for cybersecurity startups that are going after a market to protect millions of drivers.
Tom LaSorda is an auto industry executive who knows an opportunity when he sees one. If the name isn’t familiar to you, LaSorda is the former CEO of Chrysler. Automotive News reported earlier this year that his venture capital fund, IncWell, has invested into a global automotive cybersecurity supplier called TowerSec, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich.
TowerSec specializes in delivering onboard cybersecurity technology to OEMs, suppliers and telematics unit and service providers. According to TowerSec, as modern vehicles become more computerized, connected cars become part of the ecosystem and the Internet of Things becomes a reality, the concern of car hacking increases.
Argus Cyber Security is another company making a lot of noise in the auto cybersecurity space. The Tel-Aviv, Israel-based company recently raised $26 million in Series B funding. The investors included Magna International, Allianz SE, the SBI Group and existing investors Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital and others. Argus solutions prevent a vehicle’s critical systems from being hacked and are seamlessly integrated into any vehicle production line, with no architecture changes needed.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers states that as cars increasingly incorporate in-vehicle computer systems to help with everything from safety to navigation, cybersecurity is among the industry’s top priorities and the auto industry is working continuously to enhance vehicle security features.
Focus is now starting to shift from the physical protection of vehicles, drivers and passengers to the security protection against cyberattacks and intrusions, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research. In a report last year, ABI forecasted that more than 20 million connected cars will ship with built-in software-based security technology by 2020.
Trade shows and conferences are also focusing on auto cyber, including the Annual Automotive Cyber Security Summit, now in its third year and boasting speakers from the largest automakers globally.
The auto cybersecurity market is still on the runway and there’s time for you to hop on before it takes off in 2016.
Steve Morgan is founder and CEO at Cybersecurity Ventures and editor-in-chief of the Cybersecurity Market Report and the Cybersecurity 500 list of the world’s hottest and most innovative cybersecurity companies. Follow Steve on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.