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Held for Ransom: OEMs need better security to protect themselves against hackers, say cybersecurity firms

Toronto, Ontario Now that the automotive industry is slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic, there is another threat to automakers that are lurking along the horizon: cyber-attackers.

According to Black Kite, a cybersecurity rating provider, over 17 percent of suppliers, and almost half of 100 automotive manufacturers are at high risk for ransomware attacks. For manufacturers and suppliers who do not have a secure corporate IT system, cyberhackers can infiltrate and install malware, restrict important data from car companies and hold it for ransom. 

Bob Maley, Black Kite’s chief security officer, says that having vital information being held for ransom puts manufacturers in an extremely tough spot and left having to make a decision.

“If that happened and it took [an automaker] offline and they had to make the decision — ‘Well, do we pay a $5 million ransom to get our systems back, or do we have the procedures in place to be able to restore our systems?’ — it becomes a very complicated business decision that no CEO really wants to face,” said Maley. 

Especially in 2021, cybersecurity will become more of an essential part of the automotive industry, and 71 percent of automotive chief information officers said they would put more of a focus on better cyber and information security systems. National Cyber Security Alliance Director Kelvin Coleman, says that having data held for ransom could set a lot of manufacturers back even more.

“Suffering ransomware attacks at the current moment will add [the] proverbial ‘insult to injury’ for many automakers, and would at the very least severely hamper their efforts at a return to normalcy,” said Coleman.

Black Kite also reported that 91 percent of manufacturers have old systems in place that are highly vulnerable, and when it comes to cyberhacking, anyone is at risk. Coleman says that even those who don’t believe are of interest to hackers can fall victim to ransomware as well. 

“However, small automakers may also be a target, as they do not have the resources of larger automakers to put into cybersecurity,” Coleman said. “Big or small, any automaker is at risk of being hacked at some point or another — bad actors understand that the automotive industry is one of the leading sectors in digitization and automation, making it a prime target.” 

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