University of VA and DOD Develop Anti-Hacking Technology for Vehicles

Cybercrime is a growing concern in the U.S. Last year, the FBI and U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA warned U.S. citizens that their motor vehicles are “increasingly vulnerable” to hacking. Leading researchers and experts in cybersecurity have been working fast to protect the nation’s critical physical assets and the control systems that monitor and operate them. With the growth of computer technology and “smart cars,” even common vehicles are connected to the internet and thus vulnerable to hacking.
The University of Virginia has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop risk assessment methodology and proprietary hardware/software products to help protect critical defense platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles and ships. UVA’s research and development team of cyber security professionals, control system engineers, combat and business experts spun off a commercial cybersecurity firm, the Charlottesville-based Mission Secure Inc.(MSi). Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe launched a  public-private working group in 2015 to address the threat of automotive hacking. Participants in the joint research project are UVA, the Virginia State Police, and Mission Secure.
Nicola Bezzo, assistant professor in UVA’s Department of Systems and Information Engineering which, researches autonomous systems and assesses the threats to them stated that our recent-model vehicles are dependent on potentially vulnerable computerized systems that support their operation, In a recent interview published in UVA Today, Bezzo warned, “Modern vehicles are not built with cybersecurity in mind. They have a lot of computers with a lot of sensors, and they work great; driving comfort is increasing and there are a lot of safety features.
“But an attacker can compromise these sensors, or the computer, and can drive you wherever he wants. They can take over the brakes of the car, or some sensor like the GPS, or he can take over the lights in the vehicle.”
One way to counter cyberattacks on cars is to build redundancies into their computer systems. “The more redundancies there are in a system, the harder it is to break in and the more likely the operator can detect something is wrong.”  Self-driving cars are especially threatened by cyberattacks on their computer systems. “I believe we are never going to be able to completely solve this problem,” Bezzo said.
Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at

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