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BlackBerry: Let’s secure the connected car to protect the IoT

As the Internet of Things continues to grow around the world, the question of how to effectively secure the billions of “things” is becoming more important than ever before.

BlackBerry is hoping it can play a significant part in this area, using its extensive expertise in the connected car industry to position itself as a leader in the space. Speaking to ITProPortal, Alex Manea, CSO at BlackBerry noted that the increasingly smarter and connected vehicles, "blur the lines between security and safety."

BlackBerry’s QNX software is a common presence in many cars on the road today, with the company partnering with a number of leading auto manufacturers to provide top-of-the-line safety and security services.

Manea explained that there a wide number of threats that could affect connected cars, noting that the vehicles have, “an incredibly large attack surface - even more than computers.”

A typical luxury car has around 100 million lines of code, he says, along with dozens of electrical connected systems, possibly all from different manufacturers, presenting an attractive landscape for hackers.

"There are many different ways to get into a car - both physically and electronically," he notes, adding that car manufacturers and technology providers such as BlackBerry need to look holistically and think how they can try to prevent all threats.

"If we leave any possible threat open...attackers are going to find a way to get in," he warns.

(Image credit: Image Credit: SplitShire / Pexels)

Separating the safety aspects of connected cars from those not concerned with safety is a critical consideration for manufactures and software providers alike, Manea says, noting that both areas also have a key role to play in changing the perception of cars as possible victims of cyber attacks.

"A lot of people have the mindset that cars are essentially hunks of metal on four wheels that get you from point A to point B,” he says. “This may have been the case 15 or 20 years ago, but nowadays cars are essentially now IT environments on four wheels...part of the challenge is getting people to think about cars as software platforms, and having them look at it that way." 

Ironically, Manea notes that this challenge is similar to the one BlackBerry is currently facing as it continues its transition from a mobile hardware heavyweight to a software provider.

"There are parts of the world where people are comfortable with BlackBerry as a software company, but there are others where people see BlackBerry primarily as a hardware manufacturer,” he says, “there's still this kind of knee-jerk reaction of Blackberry equals's something we've been working very hard on during the past couple of years...but I don't think our work is quite done yet."

(Image credit: Image Credit: Blackberry)

Ultimately, the new BlackBerry is aiming to be one of the key players behind the growing Internet of Things, providing software and services that allow users and manufacturers alike to stay secure.

But in order to do so, Manea believes needs to be greater collaboration across the industry to create and firm up standards in governing the Internet of Things.

"We absolutely need standards if we're going to be successful with our IoT deployment,” he notes. “I believe that every single IoT device needs to be able to receive and install secure software updates.”

“As an IT security professional, I can tell you that any time you have large amounts of code, chances are that they're going to have vulnerabilities there...if we start deploying IoT devices without the ability to install software updates, we put ourselves in a very bad position."

Manea predicts that 2018 will see, “a continuation of the trends we've seen in 2017...more hacks, more data breaches and more security threats arising."

He adds that many companies may suffer from "security debt" in the coming months, as their IT departments have traded off security innovation to focus on other areas - a decision which may come back to haunt the industry as a whole.

"I would love to tell you 2018 will be better,” he says, “but if anything, it will probably get  worse! We need to be making the right security decisions the security decisions we make today will determine where we're at in the future.”

Luckily BlackBerry is aiming to help protect businesses of all sizes, as Manea declares, "our goal is to secure the entire enterprise of things...and whatever things you have connected, we want to help secure that.”

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is News and Features Editor working across both ITProPortal and TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, including spells at one of the UK's leading national newspapers. He is interested in hearing about all the latest news and developments across the Business IT world, and how companies are using new technology to help push forward their work and make their customer's lives easier.