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Israel’s Cyber Expertise Driving Connected Car Security

Some of the best hope right now for preventing the digital takeover of vehicles is coming out of Israel.

The cybersecurity firm Check Point — which, as a recent Reuters story notes, played a pivotal role in developing the computer firewall 20 years ago — is based in Tel Aviv and is focusing on developing a security capsule to protect connected cars.

While those types of vehicles are only becoming more prominent — Reuters shares data from market researcher IDATE showing that the number of connected cars on the road has risen 57 percent annually since 2013 and that the total number is expected to reach 420 million by 2018 — keeping them safe from hackers is becoming a big business, the story points out.

“We view this as a potential $10 billion market opportunity over the next five years,” Reuters quotes Daniel Ives, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets in New York, as stating. “As we have seen with cybersecurity over the past decade, the lion’s share of the innovation going after this market is from Israel and Silicon Valley.”

Protecting connected cars, the outlet explains, requires two levels of defense: one keeping malicious software from infiltrating the vehicle’s software and another to secure its internal communications to ensure that they function as intended.

Alon Kantor, vice president of business development at Check Point, says that the company’s focus is on the former — protecting the connected car’s external gateway. Reuters shares that Kantor reports having a working “proof of concept” for this task following two years of discussions with carmakers and suppliers.

“The car manufacturers didn’t know exactly what cybersecurity was. We had to study the networks in different cars. It was mutual learning,” remarked Kantor.

The story describes Check Point’s system as relying on a cloud-based network through which transmissions going in and out of the car pass; these are inspected in real time, and malware — when detected — is blocked.

“The idea is to prevent the next recall,” said Kantor, likely referring to Fiat Chrysler having to recall 1.4 million vehicles last year to install new software after a vulnerability was discovered in some Jeep Cherokees that would allow their engines to be turned off remotely while in drive, “and handle all security and updates over the air.”

As for protecting connected cars’ internal security, another Tel Aviv-based company is working on that end (as well as on protecting the external wireless connection), according to Reuters: Argus Cyber Security — a startup founded by graduates of the Israeli military’s cyberintelligence unit.

“Car manufacturers, for the last 100 years, simply built cars and were very good at doing that,” stated Yoni Heilbronn, Argus’ head of marketing. “Cybersecurity is generally not their core competence. This is where it comes back to Israel.”

The Reuters story adds that Harman International Industries, a maker of connected car systems, bought Israeli-founded cyberdefense startup TowerSec for the purpose of protecting its products and that global tech companies, like IBM and CISCO, are also employing their teams in Israel to work on the security of connected cars.

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