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MBS Day One - Computer Upgrades Could Cause Car "End Of Life" Senerio

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Could manufacturers' elimination of long term computer upgrades cause "end of life" for your vehicle?

By Martha Hindes

Senior Editor
The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau

Did it freak you out when you had to upgrade to Windows 10? Were you aghast when you needed to add new, more powerful anti-virus and malware protection? Better expect the same when you buy a new car in a couple of years. As autonomous driving advances – and it’s moving at lightning speed – the same kind of security issues that plague your laptop, tablet and smart phone are going to be a normal part of everyday driving.

While a vehicle manufacturer can build in state-of-the-art anti-hacking protection for all the new high tech driving systems when it comes off the production line, their responsibility for your car’s safety and security won’t end when you drive it off the new car lot.

According to Bryson Bort, founder and CEO of GRIMM, the auto maker will need to hold your collective hands throughout the lifetime of your vehicle, keeping constant vigilance against the myriad of computer hacks expected to be the normal landscape as vehicles become more automated and autonomous. That means continual operating and security updates the same as your Windows 10 system gets on a regular basis.

“You can’t be safe unless you’re secure,” said Bort, speaking at the Management Briefing Seminar put on annually by CAR, the Center for Automotive Research, at Traverse City. Michigan. A military veteran, with a 16-year background at Intel, he founded GRIMM to deal with the inevitable security issues that already are a major factor in developing safe, automated vehicles. His company logo shows the enormity and severity the problem is expected to have as technology progresses and such black hat hackers as those who recently launched the “wanna cry” attack that took down computers worldwide multiply exponentially. It sports a skull and a scythe overhead, just in case you didn’t get the mental picture of the grim reaper from the name.

The obvious result is that just as Microsoft stopped support for such antiquated operating systems as Windows XP and soon will with Windows 7, driving your car, SUV or truck could become a crap shoot when the manufacturer decides it has reached the “end of life” for its electronic security support.

And driving without updates won’t be a matter of simply turning off or just skipping some functions you feel you don’t need. Systems no longer are singular, so one component could regulate a number of functions that make a vehicle operable. And those modular systems will only become more complex, and threats such as attacks also can get into the system during manufacture or when a vehicle is taken to a repair shop.

Does that mean someone would have to buy a new car or truck every two years just to be sure it couldn’t be hacked or tampered with? While auto makers might love it, “we couldn’t ask people to do that,” said Bort.

Copyright 2017, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau. All rights reserved