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A boot camp for hacking electric vehicles

Posting in Design

An electric vehicle's reliance on computing makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks - could a boot camp solve the industry's problems?

Electric vehicles, while useful and becoming increasingly necessary if dwindling fossil fuels are to be conserved, do come with their issues. Infant battery technology has put off some car manufacturers -- including Toyota who recently scrapped plans for a second car -- from embracing the potential of EVs.

From altering the dashboard to breaking in, an EV electronics system is likely to be a prime target for hackers. Wired reports that recently, a team of cyber security experts tested an EV's defenses -- finding that it was easy to break in, eavesdrop on conversations, turn off the engine or cause havoc to the braking system.

If EVs are ever going to become mainstream, not only does the technology itself need to mature, but these exploits have to be remedied. Battelle, a large nonprofit R&D organization, is battling this problem -- beginning with the novel approach of hosting a summer camp for students to discover and fix car-security issues.

In a new August boot camp called the "CyberAuto Challenge", 20 high school and college students worked with engineers, IT researchers and Department of Defense officials in a collective hackathon. Teams were given daily instruction in design, coding and ethics, as well as completing hands-on challenges to improve EV security.

The hands-on training is designed to ensure engineers have the skills necessary to protect our cars in the future. Karl Heimer, senior research director of Battelle’s Cyber Innovation Unit commented:

"We've seen a sequence of events that suggests that there is going to be explosive growth and development in connected car technology. One of the critical aspects is connecting people and organizations. So we reached out to the auto industry and government and told them why it's important to develop the sort of engineers we’re going to need in two, three, five, or 10 years time."

(via Wired)

Image credit: Coda

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— By on October 3, 2012, 8:05 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure