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Smart roads face cyber threat

December 4th, 2017
Intelligent transport is no longer a pipe dream with smart cars popping up all over the show. However, as technology advances, so too does the chance of cyber criminals to hack systems and cause chaos, writes ANVEE ALDERTON, Channel Manager, Trend Micro Southern Africa.
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Smart cities are coming, and they are no longer a pipe dream or an idea for fiction anymore. With the speed of technological developments, and the greater connectivity globally, we may soon see smart cities everywhere.

We may not be seeing this right now in South Africa, however there will be a time when they will become part of our landscape. We are seeing more connected cars and autonomous vehicles appearing and being successfully adopted. With all these new developments, we are seeing the dawn of the Intelligent Transport System.

Intelligent vehicles need intelligent infrastructure. What this means is that there are a whole host of automated systems that need to be in place to help with traffic flow and making traffic easier to control and manage. This includes things like autonomous and connected vehicles, cameras, sensors, traffic monitoring, RFID and e-tickets, to name a few.

However, where there is technological advancement, there are also cyber criminals that are looking to benefit in some way through penetrating the security behind the system – which would not only cause possible chaos, but could lead to disastrous consequences. Threats can come from nation states, hacktivists, cyber terrorists or numerous other malicious actors.

The goals of cyber attacks can range from causing chaos or disruption, stealing information or to making money. We already see this with cameras being infected with ransomware and digital message boards being hacked.

The recently published Trend Micro report, Cyberattacks Against Intelligent Transportation Systems,  launches an in-depth investigation into what threats may be on the horizon. Because roads need to function safely – smart or not – it is vital to be aware of what can possibly happen when the entire transport system is digitised.

There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account, such as vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and infrastructure-to-infrastructure functionality. This encompasses communications systems, threats to automated tolls, weather stations, speed sensors and a wide variety of other components that have a direct impact on the safety of the road user.

Governments, policy makers and IT security specialists all need to be aware of what is at stake when it comes to ITS. The IT industry is already involved in examining car hacking techniques, evaluating attack vectors and penetration on connected vehicles. As the hackers learn ways to get into the system, the security specialists are learning how to keep them out.

It’s not just the vehicles, though, that need to be taken into account: it’s the entire road and transport system. The Trend Micro report provides solutions for threats to ITS, like firewalls, anti-malware, network segmentation, vulnerability scanning and patch management.

We know that in order to create safe smart cities, we need to begin by assessing whatever challenges exist now, and head off any threats that we can. Securing the future starts today.

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