General Motors Appoints First Product Cybersecurity Officer

Reuters reports that General Motors (GM) recently announced the appointment of Jeffrey Massimilla as it first-ever chief product cybersecurity officer.

The company told Fortune that it has created “one integrated organization, Vehicle and Vehicle Services Cybersecurity, to deal with cybersecurity for vehicles and vehicle-connected services. This team will utilize our internal experts and work with outside specialists, to develop and implement protocols and strategies to reduce the risks associated with cybersecurity threats.”

“We went to the Navy, the nuclear part of the Navy, we went to Boeing Co. and Virginia Tech to ask who you hire, how you hired them and what you charged them to do,”GM vice president of global product development Mark Reuss told the Wall Street Journal. “We have to look at [car tech] on a critical systems level.”

IHS Automotive analyst Egil Juliussen told Reuters that GM’s hiring reflects the increasing importance of cyber security in the automotive industry.

“The long-term trend is that the auto manufacturers will have to make security part of the hardware and software architecture,” Juliussen said. “It won’t make it impossible to hack, but it will make it hard enough so that there is no financial gain to do the hacking.”

Still, it’s a highly relevant concern. At DEF CON 21 last summer, researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated hacks that gave them control of a 2010 Toyota Prius and a 2010 Ford Escape, allowing them to set both cars’ speedometers to arbitrary values, change the Toyota’s steering wheel angle at speed, disable the Ford’s brakes, and more.

A recent eSecurity Planet article looked at the steps car manufacturers are taking to protect their vehicles from such attacks –?Utimaco regional sales director Johannes Lintzen told eSecurity Planet that the good news is that automakers do seem to be prioritizing cyber security.

“All the players in the automotive space seem to be aware of the importance of having best-of-breed security from the earliest phases when solutions are being architected,” Lintzen said.

And the automotive security industry is growing fast. Last week, automotive cyber security company Argus Cyber Security announced that it had raised $4 million in funding from Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and individual investors including RAD Group co-founder Zohar Zisapel (h/t Infosecurity).

“In a world of connected cars, car hacking is an unavoidable hazard,” Argus co-founder and CEO Ofer Ben-Noon said in a statement.

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and an eSecurity Planet contributor since 2009.

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