Smart Products Raise Risk of Cyber Hacking

Cyber hacking smart products

Are pacemakers at risk of cyber-attack?

The ever-present availability of smart, connected products magnifies the threat of cyber-attacks. Just ask former vice president Dick Cheney knows this all too well. Turns out his fear of assassination via heart device was justified.

While there have been no reports of hacking attempts on medical implants in the United States, in 2012 a researcher from McAfee, the global tech security company, was able to hack into an insulin pump causing a life-threatening release of all its 300 units of insulin.

Those patients whose disease management depends on the devices functioning properly find this idea very unsettling.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, the number of connected machines has grown by 300 percent over the last five years. While the opportunities this offers is inspiring, it’s also risky. Protecting data and the devices they drive, while keeping up with evolving technologies and increasingly innovative hackers, poses a real challenge to manufacturers. Products must have security solutions that are connected and embedded to minimize these threats.

Have you thought about the security of the software systems inside a car for instance?

Cruising down the highway when the brakes suddenly engage, or sitting in a parking lock when the doors unlock themselves? These are some of the scenarios that come to mind when thinking of car-hacking. Although reported cases of car hacking are rare, the threat has caught the attention of automakers. And they’re using everything in their power to identify the systems that may be vulnerable, including hiring security experts to develop products that understand and resist such attacks.

Think of a car’s telematics system that could notify police in the event of a crash or remotely disable a stolen vehicle. A hacker could tunnel into this system and disable the ignition the same way an anti-theft system would.

This summer, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers issued a report warning about the risk of car hacking, citing General Motors’ push to offer in-vehicle Wi-Fi across its four brands by 2014. “Internal computing components have now proliferated into a complex, interconnected web of peripheral networks—all of which are susceptible to threats like viruses, malware and denial-of-service hacks,” the PWC report said.

To minimize this threat, Chrysler and Ford work with researchers to reverse-engineer the entire telematics system in order to strengthen the security of external communications and in-car networks. For example, OnStar has a list of approved computers that are allowed to connect with its cars systems to minimize unapproved access.

Manufacturers are having to rethink how to include security requirements during the product design process. Protecting a manufacturing company’s most valuable physical, digital, and intellectual assets from cyber disruption is now essential to operational continuity and corporate security in today’s digital business world.

The threat of hacking into any smart, connected product is very real…. and the reality is not if, but when.

About Beth Ambaruch

Avowed learner of new world-changing technology. Unwinds by cooking, traveling and playing with the family. Corporate Communications at PTC. Lives in Minneapolis, MN.
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