Electric Cars Need Cybersecurity Too

Rise of electric vehicles creates new challenge for information assurance professionals.

Consumers are being told that the upcoming generation of completely electric vehicles will feature plug-and-play simplicity, allowing drivers to charge their cars at home and on the road and, from the consumer’s point of view, it’s largely true. Behind the scenes, however, the new demands of electric vehicles and their charging points creates an entirely new set of challenges for local utility providers, not the least of which is in the area of cybersecurity and the safety of the electric grids they rely on.

From a charging infrastructure point of view, electric vehicle (EV) charging is much more than a single-step, plug-and-go procedure. Significant communication must be made between the car, the charging point and the utility provider to ensure that every electric car on the grid receives the required amount of energy and electricity flow. In some cases, specifically where remote EV charging is provided for a fee, financial transactions and personal data must also be managed appropriately and securely. If hackers or terrorists were able to gain access to this data, it could be detrimental to an entire industry of people who trust the EV charging ports. All this means proper information assurance and security standards are a critically important part of the new EV craze and cybersecurity related to electric vehicle infrastructure is poised to be a high-growth industry in the coming years, according to industry research.

The clean-tech market intelligence firm Pike Research estimates EV cybersecurity is already a $26 million business as of 2011 and continues to grow each day. In just four years, though, Pike believes it will grow to a $144-million-per-year business with continued aggressive growth predicted into the foreseeable future. Between now and the future, Pike expects a total of more than $432 million to be invested in electronic vehicle cybersecurity, something that should pique the interest of anyone preparing for an advanced information assurance career. Since this has been a primarily unexpected IT issue, the industry around it has grown fairly quickly to help support this more complex technology and continue to grow consumer confidence.

Smart charging management is the main objective of the massive EV cybersecurity investment. With an entirely new strain on the already limited energy resources nationwide, automated and efficient distribution of available power is key to fulfilling the electric vehicle industry’s promise of simplicity to consumers and avoid stranded vehicles along the road. That type of integrated power management requires significant digital expertise on its own, but the security of that system against attack and human error is critical.

Pike researchers say failure of that system could lead to localized brownouts of homes and businesses, stranded electric vehicles, and a massive blow to public confidence in an industry that is already at the cutting edge of consumer acceptance. These car computer systems which must integrate so heavily with current information management systems are becoming mare expensive to build and take a longer time to hit the market.

One obstacle to effective security, according to Pike, is the lack of universal information assurance standards related to EV charging. There are also no government-mandated requirements for proper system integrity for this mode of transportation. In the absence of a clear security path, Pike researchers predict the task of adequately protecting EV charging infrastructure will take longer and cost more but will be able to help build out an overall stronger cyber infrastructure within the next decade.

Source: “Smart Electric Vehicle Charging Will Necessitate Greater Utility Investment in Cyber Security Systems

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