event coverage

Automotive Cybersecurity: The View from General Motors

Mary Barra, Chair and CEO of General Motors, delivered the opening keynote in which she reviewed trends predicted by futurists that suggest a comprehensive transformation in the automobile industry. Connectivity will drive that transformation.

The move toward increased connectivity will be driven by both technology push and demand pull—consumers will want the features emerging technology provides. Ridesharing will change the way people use cars (she pointed to GM partner Lyft as an example) and new vehicles will offer increasingly autonomous systems. (She also pointed to the latest version of the Chevy Volt, on display in the Cobo Center, as an example of where electrical vehicles are heading.)

As vehicle connectivity grows, so too does the content transmitted through vehicular networks. Here as elsewhere complexity increases the attack surface. Cyber security for automobiles is, Barra argued, an issue of not only physical safety, but of privacy and data security as well. GM, she said, sees cybersecurity not as a competitive advantage, but as a sector-wide, societal concern, and she exhorted industry to design its products with cyber security in mind.

So, she concluded, GM strongly supports collaboration. It also wants a strong and close relationship with the white-hat research community. "The welcome mat is out," as Barra put it. She publicly committed to implementing the Auto-ISAC best-practices published this week.

Unlike other sectors, the automotive sector hasn't yet been hard-hit by cyber threats. Thus, it has an opportunity to get it right before it's pushed by pressure of events. Barra said she intends to learn as much as possible from those sectors (like defense and aerospace) who have experienced attacks, and she closed with a call for the automotive sector to make cybersecurity an industry priority.