GM Names Company Engineer As First Cybersecurity Chief

As cars become increasingly autonomous and more reliant on little computers to manage nearly everything, the company felt it high time to appoint someone to thwart potential hackers. Jeff Massimilla was appointed to be the new chief which is part and parcel of an eight month review of engineering and product design in a year that has seen General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) announce massive recalls across its product line.

GM appoints a Cybersecurity Chief: Why now?

“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” said GM Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”

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When you have computers controlling not only little things like air conditioning and windshield wipers but braking, engines, and navigation it’s clearly important to keep these things protected from malicious attacks that could harm drivers.

In fact, the ability to attack cars prompted security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek to publish a list of the “most hackable” cars last month and at last year’s Def Con hacking conference the two demonstrated ways to attack the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape.

“I am the Calvary”

General Motors was among the automakers that were sent a letter by hackers and security professionals belonging to the non-profit “I am the Calvary” which urged auto-makers to adopt a five-stage cyber-security plan to thwart hackers.

“The long-term trend is that the auto manufacturers will have to make security part of the hardware and software architecture,” said Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive recently. “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.

Drivers will certainly relish the news that General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has taken this step and I would expect other automakers to follow in the near future.