BlackBerry has majorly shifted its focus from smartphones, and its next big areas of focus are connected cars and security. In line with this shift of focus, there are reports that the Canadian firm is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service.
BlackBerry developing anti-hack tool for cars
According to Macquarie analyst Gus Papageorgiou, the company is working with two leading automakers, Range Rover and Aston Martin, to develop an anti-hack tool. In a note to clients, the analyst explained that the security service will remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they are in any kind of critical danger.
According to the Daily Mail, the security service is currently being tested by the two luxury car makers. The security tool will be able to install security patches to an idle car as well. BlackBerry’s security service could be released as early as next year and generate over $10 a month per vehicle for the Waterloo-based company, the analyst believes. Auto security is one of many areas the Canadian firm is betting on to boost its revenue after losing its dominance in the smartphone market.
Cars in today’s world are dependent on computers that connect to each other, to mobile networks, to the Internet, and to Bluetooth communications systems, making them vulnerable to remote hacks. This dependency is only going to increase with time.
“Although a connected, more software-centric automobile offers tremendous advantages to consumers, it also opens the doors to hackers,” said Papageorgiou, who has tracked BlackBerry for more than 15 years.
Rising need for security service for cars
Both John Wall, head of BlackBerry’s QNX division, and company spokeswoman Sarah McKinney refused to comment when the Daily Mail approached them about the matter. In an email to the Daily Mail, Aston Martin spokesman Matthew Clarke said that he was not aware of the company testing such a product.
Automakers’ interest in cyber-security has risen dramatically since 2015 when two hacking experts revealed vulnerabilities in Fiat Chrysler cars, which resulted in a U.S. recall of about 1.4 million vehicles.
QNX has also been mentioned in the CIA meeting notes as one of many potential mission areas for its Embedded Devices Branch. According to some of the 8,761 documents posted by WikiLeaks, the same branch worked with U.K. spy agencies as well to develop tools to breach Samsung smart TVs, Apple iPhones, and Google’s Android system. The documents, however, don’t reveal if the agency ever moved forward with QNX as a target. The QNX automotive software is used in more than 60 million vehicles.
And let’s not forget that people in many countries are still shocked and scared following the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. The cyber-attack affected over 200,000 victims in 150 countries around the world. WannaCry, which targets Microsoft’s Windows operating system, allows hackers to take control of the victim’s computer and lock the data until they make a payment in return. Though this has nothing to do with cars, it does raise the need for a state-of-the-art security system.