GM Global Security VP Emphasizes Importance of Cybersecurity in Automaker’s Digital Platform

September 16, 2019 7:51 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

In May, General Motors unveiled its new digital vehicle platform, which will be the electronic backbone for advance driver-assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment features and telematics in its next generation of vehicles. These advanced technologies, GM noted, support the company’s vision for “a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”

During a presentation at the Automotive Service Association’s Technology & Telematics Forum in Troy, Michigan, a GM executive emphasized the importance of cybersecurity in the achieving that mission.

“We will not launch a product, we will not launch a service, unless it has an appropriate security posture to protect the customer, and that’s very important to us,” Jeff Massimilla, GM’s vice president of global security, explained during the Sept. 12 ASA forum.

As vehicles become increasingly connected, GM is working to address cybersecurity from a number of angles, such as preventing unauthorized access to vehicles.

“That’s a very interesting topic, because if someone really wants to get in your vehicle, a rock through a window works really well,” Massimilla said. “But we want to make sure that the vehicle is protected electronically both from an access and from a drivability perspective to ensure there’s no unauthorized access to the vehicle.”

Massimilla noted that vehicle cybersecurity has become “one of the highest corporate risks for General Motors.”

“And the reason it’s one of the highest corporate risks is because if we have a major cyber event, you can imagine the media perception and regulatory activity and legal activity associated with even a small event,” he said. A cybersecurity breach would have far-reaching ramifications internally as well, considering the number of parts and systems shared across multiple vehicle platforms. “It’s a high corporate risk, because we want to protect our customers, but internally we also need to protect our business and our brand, so we take this very seriously.”

GM launched its first secure gateway in model-year 2016 and has taken a number of other steps to protect its vehicles, Massimilla noted. GM vehicles today employ tactics such as secure authentication, authorization and encryption to protect data, and the automaker plans to roll out “even more sophisticated vehicle protections” as part of its digital vehicle platform.  

“We’re securing safety-critical messages on the communications bus on the vehicle to even prevent someone from maybe putting a rogue module or device on someone’s car if they’re targeting an individual specifically,” he said. “So we’re taking cybersecurity posture of the vehicle to the next level.”

But Massimilla asserted that GM’s cybersecurity initiatives haven’t affected shop owners and technicians because “we have built our security mechanisms with serviceability in mind.”

“The tools you use today will not change from your perspective, and how they operate will not change,” he said. “You will be able to service, diagnose and repair a vehicle exactly as you have today as we increase our security posture.”

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This post was written by Josh Cable

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