Because cars are, by definition, useful only when in motion, their transformation at the hands of cloud computing might be more profound than in many other industries. But that’s only if car companies make the necessary investments in 2018 to secure their cloud environments for safe mobility.
Gartner predicts a quarter-billion cloud-connected cars on the road by 2020. Cloud-based services are expected to offer drivers and passengers everything from next-level navigation systems—for example, using map data to determine the most optimal use of fuel during the car’s route—to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to help avoid accidents. Cloud connectivity is also changing infotainment (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are just two examples) and supporting the evolution of autonomous driving.
To make such services available, new cars will rely heavily on two-way secure data and information sharing between the vehicle and the cloud for access to data storage, processing, and analytics capabilities, as well as plain-old internet access.
Unless the automotive industry makes connected-car integration of secure cloud technology one of its top priorities, the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians could be in danger. If the security and integrity of in-car data and systems, and related cloud services, are not maintained, outcomes could be catastrophic.
These implications are not lost on auto executives: I predict the industry will make massive investments in 2018 to secure cloud environments. Besides the obvious danger to life and limb, the risk of data loss and concerns about data privacy and regulatory compliance are pushing automakers to implement robust security controls that help unlock the full potential of the cloud without slowing down business processes.
We have a long way to go, though. Security tools historically used in the automotive industry are not designed for cloud environments. Further, the need to secure cloud access from anywhere, anytime, across highly dynamic, virtual environments, breaks the traditional network-perimeter defense approach.
To unlock the full potential of the cloud in 2018 and beyond, I recommend automakers take steps right away to evaluate the security tools they have in place for the connected car, and develop comprehensive approaches for protecting the security of all in-vehicle systems.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Palo Alto Networks blog.