Sep 24, 2020
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The Three Top Ways That Cyber-Hackers Will Criminally Make Money Off Of Self-Driving Cars

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Cyber-hackers criminally aim to earn money via self-driving cars. GETTY Put those darned cyber-hacker criminals into jail and throw away the key some exhort daily. We are all somewhat numbed by the continuous announcements about cyber-hackers that have broken into an internet database and stolen our personal information oftentimes doing so via attacking credit reporting agency databases retailer databases insurance company databases financial and banking systems and the like


It seems like nearly day-to-day a letter comes in the mail with a notification that your own identification has been compromised and you’re urged to take precautionary measures to be on the look ahead to someone falsely using your ID and masquerading as you. Those reprehensible uses can harm your credit rating can smear your reputation and may hit bluntly your savings or other monies that the hackers might be able to access and deplete


It is the wild west obtainable in cyber-land. Generally your own safety isn’t particularly threatened though let s be clear that losing the dough on your bank accounts is tantamount to a kind of financial menace and livelihood threat which could lead for your becoming destitute or facing other costly repercussions


As we find ourselves becoming increasingly reliant on computer-controlled physical systems that are within our midst (for my discussion about the Internet of Things IoT and impending cyber-threats see this link here) and as those systems tend to be hooked-up online the chance of being threatened with actual bodily harm will rise


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An Important Step To Success For Young People Starts With #WhyApply On September 18 One such obvious and regularly cited example is the emergence of AI-based self-driving cars and other similar autonomous vehicles (including self-driving drones self-driving trucks and so on)


In short there is a possibility that a cyber-hacker could intercede in an autonomous vehicle and in one manner or another cause difficulty or worse in terms of impacting the driving aspects of the vehicle. This concern is likely one of the frequently noted qualms when public surveys and polls are taken about the advent of self-driving cars (for insights into the valid points and also the misconceptions that those surveys seem to generate see my analysis at this link here)


For those in the self-driving car industry there seems an ongoing viewpoint by some that though there is a potential minuscule chance of a cyber-hack into a self-driving car and thus indeed cyber-security is paramount they nonetheless often state or suggest that there is little incentive for cyber-hackers to target self-driving cars using the (presumed) lack of money to be made


In other words the belief appears to be that since a self-driving car isn’t a bank it’s not a savings account it’s not a credit card one must conclude ergo that cyber-hackers will not go out in their way to come after self-driving cars. To any such perspective I loudly (and politely) say balderdash and plead that those promulgating any such stance would reconsider the problem including that they ought to forthwith cease and desist in permeating a quite misleading and wholly unsound position


Let s be above-board there are plenty of ways for cyber-hackers to earn money off of self-driving cars. Correctly the money-making potential is extremely sizable and will indisputably be an important think about why and the way cyber-hackers sink their teeth into self-driving cars. Anyone with a blind spot on this source of motivation will likely underestimate the veracity of the threats that cyber-hackers are going to undertake during this realm


Maybe this could help: Follow the money. What this implies is that when you are already willing to agree that safety is a key aspect of cyber-security and that there’s a chance (no matter how slim) that cyber-hackers might seek to undermine the security of self-driving cars the money aspects are inextricably intertwined I assure you


How so? I am going to lay out for you the numerous ways that cyber-hackers have an opportunity (dastardly so) to try and make a payday out of self-driving cars. Before I share those insights allow me a moment to raise some related points. First whenever I write about cyber-security there are some that instantaneously complain that by doing so the symptoms proffered are allowing cyber-hackers to gauge what forms of cyber protections are being devised and what forms of cyber vulnerabilities exist


The concern is that by writing about these topics it helps the cyber-hackers arming them accordingly. Please realize that this is the now-classic head-in-the-sand posturing regarding discussing cyber-security and related matters. Some believe that we shouldn’t talk about nor write about and not in any manner even whisper the nature and avenues of cyber-security and cyber-hacking since it tips a hand to the evildoers


It is a misguided and ill-informed notion though you can still certainly sympathize with their logic. Here s the rub. This is plainly the case that cyber-hackers are going to determine these same facets a technique or another and by attempting to hide such discussions it does little good including that it tends to undercut the preparations for and awareness about being on the hunt to prevent and stop cyber-hacking


A head in the sand translates into getting kicked in the rear because the old saying goes. Meanwhile there’s another stated reason to not discuss such matters namely that by doing so it is going to cause mass hysteria. Again the logic for this is certainly understandable. When those writing about cyber-security and cyber-hacking achieve this irresponsibly attempting merely to fire up angst there is not any question that such shoddy and maybe even iniquitous efforts are sad hurtful and do not advance sensibly the battle between cyber-security and cyber-hacking


It’s important that discussions about cyber-crime be taken seriously somberly factually and portray matters in a balanced and rational way. Okay so having covered those caveats let s dive into some background and context of how cyber-security and cyber-hacking come to play regarding self-driving cars. After establishing that foundation we are able to then take an in depth check out how money is an underlying motivator and something to not be ignored trivialized or falsely thought as inconsequential


Speaking of foundations not everyone knows what it means to seek advice from a self-driving car and so we ought to start there. The Role of AI-Based Self-Driving Cars True self-driving cars are ones that the AI drives the auto entirely by itself and there isn t any human assistance during the driving task


These driverless vehicles are considered a Level 4 and Level 5 while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous and usually contain more than a few automated add-on s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems)


There isn’t yet a true self-driving car at Level 5 which we don t yet even know if this will be possible to accomplish and nor how long it is going to take to get there. Meanwhile the Level 4 efforts are gradually attempting to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials though there’s controversy over whether this testing must be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment going on on our highways and byways some point out)


Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver the adoption of these forms of cars won t be markedly different than driving conventional vehicles so there s not much new per se to hide about them on this topic (though as you ll see in a moment the points next made are generally applicable)


For semi-autonomous cars it’s important that the public must be forewarned a few disturbing aspect that s been arising lately namely that regardless of those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep on the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car we all have to avoid being misled into believing that the motive force can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car


You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle in spite of how much automation perhaps tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3. Self-Driving Cars And Hacking Levels For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles there won t be a human driver involved in the driving task


All occupants will be passengers. The AI is doing the driving. Generally most automakers are anticipating removing entirely the human-accessible driving controls from Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars. They do not have to take action per se since there isn’t a requirement across-the-board to take action but it is sensible that they’d likely desire to do this


Why so? Simply stated in case you believe that human drivers have driving foibles which we know they do and we know that for instance there are at the moment about 40 000 annual deaths using car crashes in the U. S. alone together with approximately 2. 3 million injuries it seems prudent to remove the driving from humans


And if the AI can do the driving doing so without any need for a human driver settle the problem by denying driving access for the human occupants (for more details see my discussion at this link). Before pursuing that aspect in the context of cyber-hacking and cyber-security consider the Level 2 and Level 3 cars


As mentioned those are cars that involve the co-sharing of the driving task. Bear in mind then the Level 4 and Level 5 will generally be minus driving controls for humans while the Level 2 and Level 3 will have such controls and yet also involve the co-sharing of the driving with the automation of the car


Some would say that the downside of the Level 4 and Level 5 is that if a cyber-hacker were to take over the driving controls which at this point in the discussion I m not saying is probably going or not likely but we have got to agree that there’s a chance of it which we might debate about the probability but this is an existent chance the human occupants haven’t any ready or apparent means to try and overtake the overtaking of the driving controls


That s what causes some people to especially shudder about self-driving cars and the hazards linked to a cyber-hack. For them they generally believe that with a Level 2 or Level 3 the human driver either will not suffer by the hands of a cyber-hack or that if they do since the human driver is on the wheel they’re going to simply overtake the overtaking


I would not be so sanguine about Level 2 and Level 3. If the steering suddenly and unexpectedly makes a wild veer to the correct and the auto goes say 65 miles per hour and there’s a wall there it seems mighty doubtful that the human driver goes to achieve what is occurring and no matter if they do it is going to likely be too late to react (for my explication about human driver reaction times see this link here)


The point being that cyber-hacks can wreak havoc on not only Level 4 and Level 5 which is usually where each of the attention and anguish seems to head but can just as likely impact the Level 2 and Level 3 cars and that a human sitting in the driver s seat does not especially bolster the probabilities of averting the hack (of course it is dependent upon what sort of hack is occurring)


Some will begrudgingly concur about the Level 2 and Level 3 qualms but they’d argue that the humans riding in a self-driving car are essentially sitting ducks not having any direct and immediate means to beat a hack while the human driver in the less-so automated cars has a minimum of of venture of taking action


I’d counter-argue that you’re discussing a sentiment allegorically akin to the moving of deckchairs around on the deck of the Titanic namely that the human driver in a Level 2 or Level 3 isn’t likely to make a substantive difference when a significant hack occurs. Couple that notion with the undeniable fact that human drivers can potentially exacerbate the matter


Allow me to explain. Suppose a cyber-hack causes a Level 2 or Level 3 car to slightly veer off-course but the human driver freaks out and way over-controls possibly leading the vehicle into doom which otherwise will possibly not have arisen. Or suppose that human drivers are aware of the probabilities of cyber-hacks so that they sit on the edge waiting for the day that it’d happen and end-up on occasion radically over-controlling their car despite the fact that let s say that no cyber-hack has been activated (it is a ghost implanted in their minds)


There are about 250 million licensed drivers in the U. S. today and one blanches on the notion that those humans still driving cars will be on pins-and-needles leading to a few percentage of newly classified car crashes as ones that were prompted using the human driver believing their car was under cyber-attack


It could be a huge multiplier effect when applied across hundreds of millions of human drivers. In recap cyber-hacking will impact not only Level 4 and Level 5 but Level 2 and Level 3 too and the cars that allow human driving seriously is not proof against hacks and nor does the presence of a human driver afford necessarily a heightened measure of safety thereof (including that it could be potentially less safe)


Show Me The Money I trust that you’re now open-minded that there are cyber-hacks which could impact Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 and Level 5 cars and thus we are able to judiciously consider that there is vulnerability to head throughout regardless of the level of the vehicle (other than ones that have essentially no automation or that haven’t any connectivity taking into consideration cyber-hacking though they may still be hacked possibly one after the other via the use of the OBD-II see my discussion at this link here)


From a security perspective I assume too that we are able to all agree that if a cyber-hack is deceptive enough and able enough it may cause a vehicle to ram into a wall or strike pedestrians or smash into other nearby cars. Again set aside for a moment the probabilities of those acts since I realize that some will jump up and instantly claim that the percentages of these occurring are slim


My focus is that they may happen and as such what else does that comport. Time for the money. We ll start with the simplest variant. Cyber-hackers are often motivated by the notoriety which might be had via a highly visible and bone-chilling hack. Besides the self-aggrandizement some of those cyber-hackers parlay their gained reputation into other acts


In short if you can still hack a self-driving car it may bolster their street cred which in turn might bring them monetary offers of doing the same or other forms of cyber-hacking leading to a payday. Essentially they hire themselves out as a proven cyber-hacker acting as a paid mercenary for other heinous cyber-hacking efforts


You won t though be ready to attract much dough in case you haven’t got a calling card because it were and the opportunity of enormous publicity from a self-driving car hack is a whopper of a boost. You perhaps carping that this seems somewhat indirect but nonetheless it’s a bona fide and real-world possibility of tying one of these cyber-hacking to money


Shift gears and consider the more direct routes to money. I’ve got one word for you: Ransomware. Imagine a cyber-hacker that has concocted some nefarious exploit for a specific brand of a self-driving car. They perhaps employ it on one or two such vehicles showcasing what they are able to break out with


Then they contact the fleet owner of the self-driving cars and/or the automakers and undertake a ransom threat seeking money to either undo the exploit or reveal how the exploit works etc. What’s going to the fleet owners and automakers do? Some of you perhaps bellowing that no fleet owner and no automaker would ever pay any such ransom


When you are making any such declaration you would possibly desire to look more closely on the massive size of the ransomware marketplace (see my discussion at this link here). You may additionally desire to contemplate the aspects of a nation-state that perhaps (reluctantly or overtly) willing to pay any such ransom (see my indication at this link here)


Consider another example of a money-making path reminiscent of the ransomware route. A cyber-hacker with a self-driving car self-made exploit might decide to post the existence of the exploit as available for auction seeking the best bidder that might desire to purchase it. During this use case the cyber-hacker is probably going thinking that this is too risky to try and use the exploit themselves so why not instead sell the article and pocket the dough secretly without as much exposure and then presumably start on their next sellable exploit


Likely for proof that the exploit is real and demonstrative the cyber-hacker might apply it to a vehicle and perhaps videotape the end result or otherwise offer evidence to showcase that the exploit isn’t vaporware. Overall I think you get the gist that is that money ties to safety (hacking) and safety (hacking) ties to money


Rest assured that there’s a slew of additional easy methods to earn money by cyber-hacking self-driving cars (that is a glum thought). I won t go into them all here. There is a twist though that is worthwhile to consider. Conclusion The twist is that we are lamentably going to be confronted with scammers on these matters


Here s how which will work. A scammer that does not have any form of exploit will pretend that they do have something in hand. In that case repeat each of the points I made about the cyber-hackers that do have actual hacks except the scammer does not but manages to fool people into believing that they do


This will not only impact the fleet owners and automakers but such scams are going to open the door to scamming everyday people. For those people that at the moment respond by sending money when they believe that a Nigerian royal member has left them a fortune you could add the self-driving car cyber-hack scams


Consider this stomach-wrenching use case. A despicable scammer contacts someone tells them that there’s a hack linked to self-driving cars which might be operated remotely and that whichever self-driving car the man uses for ride-sharing or whatever purpose the exploit is ready to be used. If the man will transfer funds or stop their credit card or pay some bitcoins they’re going to never be harmed by any such exploit so the scammer assures


Scammers will always exist and find new easy methods to scam including in relation to self-driving cars woefully so. Not wanting to end this discussion on any such sour note since we know that these are possibilities together with the inarguable allure of cash we are able to attempt to mitigate these evildoers by bolstering cyber-security and by engaging the public in awareness on these matters responsibly


And as perhaps a silver lining maybe we are able to get the bad-hat hackers to modify over to the good-hat side of hacking offering them the altruistic notion of helping mankind and simultaneously earning profits by finding exploits that they then get a bounty for locating or by enlisting them in the protection of self-driving cars for a gentle paycheck and a bountiful peace of mind


That seems the way that the wild west was won

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