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How safe is your car from hackers?

As motorists, we’re probably all fairly comfortable with the idea of vehicle security. At Big Motoring World we’re no different – we lock a car’s doors when we leave it unattended, and we use immobilisers and alarms to protect the vehicle from thieves. And at the same time, we’re all becoming more and more conscious of cyber security at home - we’re careful about what we download onto our computers and phones, and are cautious about who has access to our private information online.

A new threat

But what about when these two worlds collide? As car technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and reliant on connected computer technology, and as our vehicles become ever more linked through the use of wireless communications, new risks are emerging. Approximately 1.8 million car are currently capable of making vital wireless internet updates and diagnoses - all activities that potentially put them at risk of being hacked by criminals. And the problems that hackers could cause are terrifying - from stealing personal data to seizing control of your vehicle’s key functions such as steering and braking.

Pre-emptive action

As is often the case in the automobile industry, Formula 1 is a good indicator of the future of car technology, and the huge amount of care that race engineers now take to protect the reams of secret performance data that their cars transmit wirelessly is telling. The UK government is also now getting involved, with the launch of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. A key part of the purpose of the new facility is to investigate automotive cyber-attacks.

An uncertain future

At this stage, it’s hard to see how the war between hackers and the automotive industry will develop - but the hacking threat to our increasingly connected cars will surely only continue to grow. As motorists, the benefits that the new technology brings are huge - now it’s up to the manufacturers, and government, to make sure that the data our cars collect and use is secure.