Hacking into cars is not a future concern. It is possible now, and the potential danger will increase as carmakers continue to enhance connectivity features in automobiles.
But even that threat pales against the potential damage cyber attacks could wreak when driverless cars take to the roads for real.
One common perceived threat here and now comes from the ease of access that manufacturers have built in for drivers. If a driver can unlock a car door and start the engine using a cell phone, an unauthorized person can turn off that engine and lock the doors from a cell phone.
Taking a drive into the near future, could someone arrange for all of the cars on a Los Angeles freeway to have their engines turned off at the exact same time?
Even now, the ability to hack into and remotely control a car is a clear and present danger.
Video: Behind the wheel of a car, you may be able to text, watch a movie or even sleep — if it’s a computer-controlled, driverless car. The WSJ’s Michael Kofsky heads to the test track to show how it works and safety questions it raises.
A pair of security engineers — doing their research with an $80,000 grant from the Pentagon — were able to hack into the systems of Toyota and Ford cars, and override a driver’s braking attempts, according to an account of the scenario in Forbes.
The pair was able to “demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius’ brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers,” according to Forbes.
Expanding such abilities simultaneously to a fleet of cars is a feat yet to be accomplished.
“It could be possible to hack into one or another vehicle, but there is nothing that can stop the whole fleet at the same time,” said Mark Brooks, senior research engineer at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio. “Current levels of connectivity are not seen as major threats because they are not continuous.”
No One at the Wheel
“Even when a driver is using a navigation system, that is just a single download. The industry is much more concerned about continuous streaming back and forth, as with driverless cars,” he said.
Driverless cars rely on a number of sensors to operate, and are definitely vulnerable to attack, according to one of the hackers at the Def Con Hacking Conference in August.
“I’m a huge fan of unmanned vehicles,” said a hacker who goes by the name of Zoz to Venture Beat, a blog that focuses on technology. “I love robots. I think they’re the future. But, like everything else humans ever made, it’s going to get hacked.”
Google’s driverless car’s primary system is a “laser range finder mounted on the roof of the car,” which generates a 3D map of the area, according to IEEE, a technology professional organization.
“The vehicle also carries other sensors, which include: four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to ‘see’ far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle’s location and keep track of its movements.”
Zoz told Venture Beat that it would not require sophistication to attack and derail those sensors, and he pointed out that engineers in Iran were able to hack and capture a U.S. drone by “spoofing” the GPS and feeding it incorrect location information.
Death and destruction are always a worry when hackers can subvert an operating system, but apportioning liability is also a major concern, SwRI’s Brooks said.
“If there were any problems, whose fault would it be? The carmaker? The navigation OEM? The software company? The driver? These are the discussions everyone is starting to have.”
Those initial conversations can be difficult, said Dave Wasson, professional and cyber liability practice leader at brokerage Hays Cos. in Chicago.
“The issues are known. People are aware of the risks. But at the moment there is kind of a paralysis because it is unclear how to quantify these risks, and also because even if we could quantify them, there are very limited options yet in how to deal with them.”
A Flawed System
Wasson added that a reordering of the current liability structure is both necessary and inevitable. “Right now, you have a pull market, with small OEMs seeking coverage because the first-tier OEMs and carmakers demand that they be indemnified. But that is not sustainable. A client might demand a $15 million cover from a small supplier, but that cover could cost the supplier $50,000 when he only grosses $100,000 on the contract.”
It is a situation where bigger companies are offloading their risk management onto smaller ones, and that, Wasson said, is flawed.
“Even when the suppliers comply, often the package does not work the way either the supplier or the OEM client thinks it will,” he said.
“Eventually the large firms will realize that they need to take this as primary,” Wasson said. “They have the assets, the skills, the risk managers, and the brokerage relationships to get it done properly.
“Besides, they are the ones who are going to get sued. They can turn to their indemnification contracts, but if the small supplier with few assets goes bankrupt, then what? It’s the company with the badge on the car that people are going to go after.”
As those issues percolate, commercial vehicle operators have other challenges as well.
“One really big cyber issue for a logistics company or express delivery service would be to have the GPS signals for their vehicles scrambled, or the electronic shipment documents tampered with,” said Steve Surber, area vice president for Arthur J. Gallagher in Irvine, Calif.
A cyber attack could be used to divert a shipment, cover theft, tamper with cargo, or even just to delay a shipment that is time sensitive. And the theft could be of the truck or trailer itself, some of which are worth up to $60,000, he said.
On another level, hacking can be used to disrupt the loss control systems of trucking lines, many of which use GPS and electronic reporting to track their fleet performance, Surber said.
Cyber alterations of such reporting could hide potential liability issues such as speeding, sleeping, unauthorized stops, fuel diversion, or many other misdeeds by shippers, loaders, drivers or consignees.
“Companies already rely heavily on computer systems and networks to help with loss control,” he said.
Among insurers, coverage is still evolving, he added. “There is some coverage from cyber policies, but mostly we are still seeing claims handled through general liability.”
Wasson, at Hays Cos., said that while the cyber risk and liability markets are pull markets at present, with owners seeking to transfer risk, the business is not without push.
“We are energetic about working with our carriers,” he said. “There is coverage and there is capacity.”
Cyber Security Efforts
In April, an automotive consortium started revving up its efforts to enhance cyber security.
The Automobile Consortium for Embedded Security — a part of SwRI — includes automakers, original equipment manufacturers, other suppliers, and cyber security experts.
The program aims to provide “pre-competitive and non-competitive research in automotive embedded systems security to protect the safety, reliability, brand image, trade secrets and privacy of client members’ future products,” according to the organization.
“As soon as they start claiming their vehicles are secure, they would paint a target on themselves. It’s not like safety or fuel economy. With security, there are bad guys and you don’t want to attract their attention.”
The consortium, Brooks said, “is looking at emerging research both in new technologies and new protections for embedded security for the automotive world.”
“There are lots of theoretical threats,” he said, “but we want to be sure we are focusing our efforts on the most relevant ones.”
The unique challenge is that automakers want to enhance the protections in their vehicles, but ironically, it is not something they want to advertise.
“As soon as they start claiming their vehicles are secure, they would paint a target on themselves.
“It’s not like safety or fuel economy. With security, there are bad guys and you don’t want to attract their attention.”
He said that automakers also are hesitant to unilaterally invest in cyber security efforts.
“As we started talking to automakers, we found them eager to be part of developing security, but it’s tough for them to take the lead or commit a lot of money to something that will not help them sell cars,” Brooks said.
“They also don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “They are very interested in solving common problems with peer-reviewed research and applications.”
Complete coverage on the inevitable cyber threat:
Risk managers are waking up to the reality that the cyber risk landscape has changed.
Cyber: The New CAT. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Cyber risk is a foundation-level exposure that must be viewed with the same gravity as a company’s property, liability or workers’ comp risks.
Critical Condition. The proliferation of medical devices creates a host of scary risks for the beleaguered health care industry.
Unmanned Risk. The dark side of remote-controlled drones, which have already been hacked — by students.
An Electrifying Threat. There is a very real possibility hackers could devastate the nation’s power grids — for a potentially extended period of time.
Risk Technology: Risk Managers Lead from Within
This year marks my twentieth in the risk management field. Now I would never call myself a risk manager. Far from it: I’m a computer geek, and proud of it. Today we refer to the Internet, Cloud, Mobile and Big Data, but I’ve been working with technology my entire life. So much has changed in those twenty years. Networking computers together was rudimentary and extremely limited when I started. Now everything, and everyone, is interconnected, and that has changed everything.
That interconnectivity has allowed organizations to move away from the isolated, siloed processes of the past, and produced dramatic changes in the way we conduct our business and our lives. I’ve watched risk management evolve from a department called upon primarily when things go wrong, to a pervasive philosophy for running a successful business. Fewer and fewer risk managers I speak to work in isolation, reacting to claims as they come in. Rather they are a collaborative lynchpin to manage risk. They don’t wait for bad things to happen. They proactively put safety programs in place, analyze loss data and make their organizations more risk-aware. They know an enormous amount about the inner workings of their organization, its suppliers, distributors, vendors and team members. This is a fundamental transition from a middle management, administrative function, to an executive level function that is key to the organization’s success.
But risk managers are increasingly finding that email and spreadsheets are clumsy, inefficient, and ultimately create obstacles to managing risk throughout their company. With the speed and global reach of business, when even ‘local’ businesses rely on a far-flung supply chain, yesterday’s technology introduces risk, inefficiencies and increased levels of error. Today’s business demands technology that facilitates decisions for tomorrow’s business challenges. Organizations need a platform – a platform that provides secure, efficient and consistent methods of communicating risk-related events and data. Fortunately this need comes at a time when we have a convergence of technologies that can make this vision a reality.
This is a fundamental transition from a middle management, administrative function, to an executive level function that is key to the organization’s success.
Just imagine running your business on technology of twenty years ago. Sending paper memos (when CC referred to a literal ‘carbon copy’), using a phone tethered to your desk, taking delivery of policy documents in hard copy – oh wait, they still do that. Would that put your business at a competitive disadvantage? Of course it would – and risk management would suffer too.
Risk management no longer has to take a back seat to other parts of the organization. Quite the opposite. By leveraging commercial cloud platforms, the pervasiveness of the Internet and the interconnectivity of everyone and everything, the risk management team can be the most modern, forward-looking part of the company. Risk management has become the bellwether of change – actually bearing the standard for technology-enabled collaboration and productivity across the organization. Imagine that.
A Modern Claims Philosophy: Proactive and Integrated
According to some experts, “The best claim is the one that never happens.”
But is that even remotely realistic?
Experienced risk professionals know that in the real world, claims and losses are inevitable. After all, it’s called Risk Management, not Risk Avoidance.
And while no one likes losses, there are rich lessons to be gleaned from the claims management process. Through careful tracking and analysis of losses, risk professionals spot gaps in their risk control programs and identify new or emerging risks.
Aspen Insurance embraces this philosophy by viewing the data and expertise of their claims operation as a valuable asset. Unlike more traditional carriers, Aspen Insurance integrates their claims professionals into all of their client work – from the initial risk assessment and underwriting process through ongoing risk management consulting and loss control.
This proactive and integrated approach results in meaningful reductions to the frequency and severity of client losses. But when the inevitable does happen, Aspen Insurance claims professionals utilize their established understanding of client risks and operations to produce some truly amazing solutions.
“I worked at several of the most well known and respected insurance companies in my many years as a claims executive. But few of them utilize an approach that is as innovative as Aspen Insurance,” said Stephen Perrella, senior vice president, casualty claims, at Aspen Insurance.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients. Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
— Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty Claims, Aspen Insurance
Utilizing claims expertise to improve underwriting
Acting as adviser and advocate, Aspen integrates the entire process under a coverage coordinator who ensures that the underwriters, claims and insureds agree on consistent, clear definitions and protocols. With claims professionals involved in the initial account review and the development of form language, Aspen’s underwriters have a full sense of risks so they can provide more specific and meaningful coverage, and identify risks and exclusions that the underwriter might not consider during a routine underwriting process.
“Most insurers don’t ever want to talk about claims and underwriting in the same sentence,” said Perrella. “That archaic view can potentially hurt the insurance company as well as their business partners.”
Aspen Insurance considered a company working on a large bridge refurbishment project on the West Coast as a potential insured, posing the array of generally anticipated construction-related risks. During underwriting, its claims managers discovered there was a large oil storage facility underneath the bridge. If a worker didn’t properly tether his or her tools, or a piece of steel fell onto a tank and fractured it, the consequences would be severe. Shutting down a widely used waterway channel for an oil cleanup would be devastating. The business interruption claims alone would be astronomical.
“We narrowed the opportunity for possible claims that the underwriter was unaware existed at the outset,” said Perrella.
Risk management improved
Claims professionals help Aspen Insurance’s clients with their risk management programs. When data analysis reveals high numbers of claims in a particular area, Aspen readily shares that information with the client. The Aspen team then works with the client to determine if there are better ways to handle certain processes.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients,” said Perrella. “Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
For a large restaurant-and-entertainment group with locations in New York and Las Vegas, Aspen’s consultative approach has been critical. After meeting with risk managers and using analytics to study trends in the client’s portfolio, Aspen learned that the sheer size and volume of customers at each location led to disparate profiles of patron injuries.
Specifically, the organization had a high number of glass-related incidents across its multiple venues. So Aspen’s claims and underwriting professionals helped the organization implement new reporting protocols and risk-prevention strategies that led to a significant drop in glass-related claims over the following two years. Where one location would experience a disproportionate level of security assault or slip & fall claims, the possible genesis for those claims was discussed with the insured and corrective steps explored in response. Aspen’s proactive management of the account and working relationship with its principals led the organization to make changes that not only lowered the company’s exposures, but also kept patrons safer.
World-class claims management
Despite expert planning and careful prevention, losses and claims are inevitable. With Aspen’s claims department involved from the earliest stages of risk assessment, the department has developed world-class claims-processing capability.
“When a claim does arrive, everyone knows exactly how to operate,” said Perrella. “By understanding the perspectives of both the underwriters and the actuaries, our claims folks have grown to be better business people.
“We have dramatically reduced the potential for any problematic communication breakdown between our claims team, broker and the client,” said Perrella.
A fire ripped through an office building rendering it unusable by its seven tenants. An investigation revealed that an employee of the client intentionally set the fire. The client had not purchased business interruption insurance, and instead only had coverage for the physical damage to the building.
The Aspen claims team researched a way to assist the client in filing a third-party claim through secondary insurance that covered the business interruption portion of the loss. The attention, knowledge and creativity of the claims team saved the client from possible insurmountable losses.
Modernize your carrier relationship
Aspen Insurance’s claims philosophy is a great example of how this carrier’s innovative perspective is redefining the underwriter-client relationship. Learn more about how Aspen Insurance can benefit your risk management program at http://www.aspen.co/insurance/.
Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty, can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is provided for news and information purposes only and does not necessarily represent Aspen’s views and does constitute legal advice. This article reflects the opinion of the author at the time it was written taking into account market, regulatory and other conditions at the time of writing which may change over time. Aspen does not undertake a duty to update the article.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Aspen Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.