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Car Makers Plan for Biometric Security in Future “Smart” Cars
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Car Makers Plan for Biometric Security in Future “Smart” Cars

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CALIFORNIA — September 26, 2018

Remote controlled vehicles will soon be a thing of the past. We are on the threshold of the next technology – cars controlled by fingerprint.

Car manufacturers in the United States claim that people will soon use fingerprints to operate their vehicles. Today fingerprints are required to cash checks at the bank, and even to unlock mobile phones. Now security experts say fingerprints will be needed to start vehicle engines, to resist possible theft.

"This technology will be used in cars in two to four years," said Godfrey Cheng, corporate vice president of Synaptics, based in Silicon Valley. "Driver identification will be revolutionary."

Understanding that car fobs present an increasing security risk, auto companies are following the lead of personal technology devices and moving toward vehicle access through fingerprinting, facial recognition and retina scans.

Cybersecurity experts recommend car owners with smart fobs purchase small Faraday Cages online, to shield their fob’s signals from thieves.

This is because fob for newer key-less start cars are constantly emitting a low-intensity signal. Thieves today can buy devices off the internet that amplify or parrot these signals. Fobs sitting unprotected in a purse, a pocket, or even on the counter at home are vulnerable to exploit.

These inexpensive metal covers, named after scientist Michael Faraday who discovered how to block an electromagnetic field, can prevent thieves from jacking vehicles which unlock and start via wireless fob. Thieves have shown the ability to catch fob signals from outside a person’s home, an office and hotel rooms.

Fobs won't disappear in the near future, but they will be paired with biometric scans.

"You're no longer relying just on a fob. This will be a fob and a fingerprint," Cheng said between meetings in Detroit. "We'll cover touch, sight, hearing, and voice. We’ll cover all the senses but taste and smell."

"We're making the car more secure. It'll be a lot like online bank security. And if you can hack a bank or a car, wouldn't it be more worth your time hacking a bank?" Cheng asked.

Cheng has overseen technology evolve to new heights of convenience. Recently Synaptics developed technology which allows drivers to adjust touch screen dials in freezing temperatures without removing thick gloves. Clients using these and other features include Ford, Porsche, Jaguar, Range Rover, Audi, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz.

But as new technologies are born, intrepid hackers seek the loadstar to greet them. Each new feature could be open to exploit, therefore manufacturers and tech developers don't exclude the possibility of one day binding all car function to an owner’s fingerprint.

Cheng demonstrated a prototype SUV to automakers and suppliers which had been modified to allow access with just a fingerprint. With a laptop, Cheng took optical facial and fingerprint scans of a would-be driver then uploaded the biometric data into the SUV’s system.

Then Cheng programmed the car to accept would-be driver’s fingerprints, just as car dealers will do upon sale in the future. The driver pressed his finger on a dashboard sensor and started the engine.

"Tesla transformed the way people looked at the car," he said. "People saw a future of cars that will be connected devices."

Cheng shut down the car to demonstrate something else. He classified the driver as having skipped a car payment. And… the car wouldn’t start.

This sort of biometric program will allow vehicle owners to custom program their cars, matching fingerprint to music choices, seat adjustment, navigation settings, and temperature selection. This will allow parents to install “geofencing” limits, which control where teen drivers are allowed to travel.

"Let's say we create the 'teenager mode,'" Cheng explained. "You can restrict their access by time, and you can customize the amount of horsepower the teenager has, like if they borrow a Hellcat. It's irresponsible to lend your 707-horsepower car to a teenager. In the old days, you only had the choice of giving someone the key or not. Now you can geofence them and give them time-based access."

A car set to this is a lot like Cinderella’s carriage that turns into a pumpkin at midnight.

"Car companies are bringing high-speed connection to the cars, and biometrics are a necessary element of the connected car," Cheng said. "Without secure biometric authentication, drivers would be distracted with passwords and pins. Fingerprint sensors offer state-of-the-art security as well as the convenience of touch."

Biometric authentication could be in place with some products as soon as 2019, predicted Tamara Snow, director of interior systems and technology for North America within Continental.

"Vehicle access and start technology" is evolving rapidly, she said.

Risks of new technologies

Surveys indicate new technologies often make access and use of things difficult. It is remains unclear how families will take to sharing one car with this type of technology. Will only one person have ultimate access over the car’s security settings?

"There's a personality that doesn’t want to give Big Brother everything; there's a discomfort about automobile companies having so much information about us," said Holly L. Hubert, a retired FBI cybersecurity expert and founder of GlobalSecurityIQ. "This will take some getting used to. But it's pretty exciting, thinking about how technologies can be leveraged. If you're a parent of a teenage driver, these are great things.”

Auto companies are working cautiously but rapidly to adapt to a new security landscape without compromising convenience.

"There are ways we can protect the critical function of the vehicle," said Faye Francy, executive director of the nonprofit Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center. "What we need to do is thwart the threat. Automakers are invested in getting the security literally built into the design."

As for the risks themselves, manufacturers claim these future cars will be designed for everyone, regardless of who might be driving. In addition, no manufacturer has completely stopped production of classic smart fobs and well-esteemed satellite-protected cars.

"In the future, we also plan to consider the possibility of investing additional devices in the system, so that people can adapt to any conditions," Francy added.

Author: USA Really