google's self-driving car

US Official: Driverless Cars May Be Used For Cyber Warfare

April 14, 2016 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

With autonomous vehicles all set to go mainstream in the not-so-distant future, government functionaries, bureaucrats and national security officials are starting to express their concerns regarding the technology that promises to revolutionize the idea of transportation a hundred years after a little black vehicle dubbed the ‘Model T’ rolled out of Henry Ford’s factory in Detroit, Michigan. The latest to voice his apprehensions about the rollout of net-connected autonomous vehicles, is Mr. John Carlin, the assistant US attorney general for national security. During his keynote speech at the SAE World Congress event in Motown last Tuesday, Mr. Carlin said that he believed rogue nations states may actually go so far as to carry out assassinations by hijacking autonomous vehicles remotely.

According to Mr. Carlin, “There is no internet-connected system where you can build a wall that’s high enough or deep enough to keep a dedicated nation-state adversary or a sophisticated criminal group out of the system.” He also said that government agencies and large corporations continue to remain guarded against self-driving vehicles, which he believes may very well be “the next battlefront” for state-sponsored cyber warfare. While some may dismiss his comments as paranoid, the fact remains remote hijacking of connected vehicles has already been demonstrated as proof-of-concept in the recent past, and with increasingly-sophisticated cyber attacks being carried out by rogue nation states on their adversaries, who is to say that Mr. Carlin’s words would not sound prophetic in the years to come?

What’s even more disconcerting is that targeted killings is not the only thing that rogue governments may indulge in either. The threat of full-fledged cyber warfare through these vehicles is a very real possibility, according to America’s assistant secretary general for national security. According to him, “If you were able to do something that could affect a large scale of an industry – like 100,000 cars – you could see that being in the arsenal of a nation-state’s tool kit as a new form of warfare”. Meanwhile, International Data Corporation (IDC) recently released a report that claimed automotive manufacturers are only just waking up to cybersecurity issues regarding such vehicles, and that, it could take up to three years for them to come up with a robust solution to counter what can potentially become a serious challenge for security professionals in the coming decades.