18 Feb 2016


Japan is stepping up efforts to protect increasingly computer-controlled road vehicles, trains and aircraft from cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Officials in charge of information security at automakers, railway operators and air carriers cannot afford to lose a battle of wits with their invisible enemies -- hackers -- as they strive to prevent worst-case scenarios, including accidents and disruptions of service.

Japan's move to step up cybersecurity comes amid an upward trend in the number of cyberattacks in the country, especially on certain companies and organizations.

Eva Chen, CEO at Trend Micro, a major information security firm, warned that information security measures for cars will become even more important with the spread of Internet-connected vehicles.

Chen's warning is based on her own experience. When she was driving her Internet-connected car on a highway on the U.S. west coast in the autumn of 2015, the vehicle's display panel, showing the speedometer and navigation system, suddenly went black. The car in question was an electric vehicle produced by a major carmaker. Despite Chen's warning, however, it is still unclear whether her car's display panel went black as a result of a cyberattack.

Two security researchers who claimed to have hacked into a car produced by Tesla Motors, the major U.S. EV maker, grabbed the spotlight at Def Con, a conference for hackers and information technology professionals, in Las Vegas in August 2015.

Marc Rogers and Kevin Mahaffey explained at the conference how they had hacked into the Tesla Model S sedan. They had discovered vulnerabilities in software installed in the Model S and were able to make the EV come to a standstill remotely using a smartphone. "The reason we hacked the Model S is that it is the most connected car in the world," Rogers said, quoted by media outlets.

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