WASHINGTON -- By the end of the year, automakers will have a new layer of defense in the fight against would-be car hackers.
Through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, automakers are working to establish an Information Sharing and Analysis Center to act as a secure, industrywide clearinghouse for intelligence about cyberthreats to vehicles and their networks. It would also facilitate sharing of best practices for how to safeguard against and respond to threats.
Cybersecurity is a new issue for the industry, one handled by automakers in different ways. That varied and still-developing approach has fueled industry critics, including some lawmakers, who say the industry lacks a comprehensive solution to safeguard their customers.
The immediate threat of malicious hackers wreaking havoc on connected cars appears to be relatively remote. The researchers who remotely controlled some Jeep Cherokee vehicle systems -- as chronicled by Wired magazine in July and widely reported elsewhere -- were highly sophisticated security experts who spent years developing the tools needed to complete the hack.
Hackers seeking monetary gain have little current incentive to target cars. Even though vehicles can collect huge amounts of data, the auto industry has yet to monetize it in a major way, according to a recent white paper by consultancy Frost & Sullivan.
But that could change.
"Is it dire right now? I wouldn't say so, but now is the time to form the ISAC so the infrastructure and trust is there when they need an ISAC," said Denise Anderson, chair of the National Council of ISACs and a former vice president of the financial services industry's ISAC. "You don't want to be caught unprepared. Health care is being heavily targeted right now, but in the past they weren't."