From ride-hailing apps like Uber to traditional manufacturers like General Motors, change is coming to the old-fashioned automobile from more directions than the Model T. Between turning cars into Wi-Fi-connected hotspots and integrating computers powerful enough to drive vehicles on their own, Motor City executives are starting to realize that they’ve overlooked a key area in the rise of the high-tech car: security.
In an interview with Fortune, Jeff Massimilla, chief product cybersecurity officer at GM, explained a new program his company has set up to provide an easier way for white hat hackers to report security flaws in GM software. Through a secure portal, hackers can send notifications straight to GM, and while the automaker doesn’t have a compensation plan in place at the moment, Massimilla said that is something that may change in the future.
“We’re putting a lot of technology into our cars,” Massimilla told Fortune. “There’s a responsibility obviously to put an appropriate level of security with those technologies. There wasn’t one single event that prompted this action. We have been maturing our cybersecurity program within GM for sometime now. And as we’ve matured, we have had some interaction with researchers.”
“Researchers” is the more brand-friendly name for what GM and the rest of the American auto industry have come to call white hat hackers. After a string of stories in 2014 that showed hackers breaking through digital systems in Jeep vehicles and GM’s own on-board OnStar system to control everything from remote start to steering, the industry has come around to a more open and collaborative stance with the hacking community, as GM’s latest move underpins.
To really bridge the gap between the corporate world and counter-culture code jockeys, GM may have to follow Tesla’s lead in offering anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for leads on security flaws.