The automotive and technology industries are gushing: an arms race to acquire the most novel technologies in preparation for the age of autonomous cars has begun. This might happen very soon: according to leaders in the global automotive industry, if information security solutions will be sufficient to keep autonomous vehicles really and truly safe – we might see these cars on the road next to us as early as 2021.
The cyber world, however, has yet to provide a solution capable of ensuring that no hacker will be able to infiltrate and disrupt autonomous vehicles. Since this is a life-threatening risk, we will probably have to wait a few more years before autonomous cars will be a common sight.
One of the most interesting and intriguing start-up companies today is developing a unique solution which can protect both autonomous car fleets, and connected car fleets which already operate, is Upstream Security, headquartered in Herzlia, Israel. The company is developing a cloud-based solution for connected and autonomous cars, using advanced machine learning and big data analytics.
This technology enables car manufacturers and car fleet operators to protect their fleet from cyber-attacks and fleet policy violations such as fraud and misuse. In addition, the system provides IT personnel with advanced control and understanding of the behavior of both driver and car.
"This is the first cloud-based security solution for all connected car fleets", explains Yoav Levy, the CEO who founded the company early in 2017, together with Yonatan Appel, the company's CTO. Levy, served in an elite unit of the IDF and held senior positions at Check Point, Juniper Networks, and Broadcom. Appel had a similar course. He served in a technological unit of the IDF's intelligence corps and then worked at Check Point, Imperva, and Microsoft.
"We met 18 years ago at Check Point and stayed friends ever since", says Levy. During last December, Upstream announced a $9 million Series A investment led by CRV. Israeli-based Glilot Capital Partners and Maniv Mobility also participated. The last round comes on the heels of $2 million seed round in June.
"We can protect connected cars which are already in use, unlike any other solution today, which are all designed for future cars which haven't taken the road yet", explains Levy. "Today, there are already around 65 million connected vehicles, both private and commercial, which are connected to the Internet, and they are operating without any security solution. The only way to protect these car fleets from cyber-attacks and policy violations is a system like Upstream's, which blocks the attacks before they reach the vehicles.
"This is similar to the difference between an Anti-Virus software installed on a computer, parallel to an in-vehicle solution, and the Firewall guarding the network prior to the computer itself, blocking attacks early on. In fact, in the automotive world we do what Check Point does in the enterprise-networks arena. The in-vehicle security solution is the last line of defense, and like any defense line it will be breached eventually, which is why there's a need for a cloud-based security solution".
"We approach all the connected car's service providers – starting with car manufacturers, car-sharing companies, car rental agencies, and any large enterprise which has a fleet of connected cars. For example, if a rental agency wants to monitor its vehicles, track their location, and identify failures – they must be connected to the fleet's operator through the Internet.
"According to the current estimates, the connected cars market will grow significantly in coming years, and by 2020 their number will reach 250 million, which means one-in-four cars on the road will be connected to the Internet. Today, some insurance companies install a monitoring device in the vehicle, which remotely track the driver's driving patterns. Each driver receives a driving score based on the gathered information, and good drivers can get policy discounts. In addition, some connected cars have Anti-Theft systems installed, capable of locking the vehicle and stopping it on its tracks.
"This is the place to mention that connected cars are exactly like any ordinary computer, and are exposed to all existing cyber threats. Hackers can disable a car remotely and gain complete control over it, which is why protection against cyber-attacks and policy violations is crucial for connected cars, and even more so for autonomous cars".
"The security solution inside the vehicle is like an Anti-Virus – a final defense line which will be breached eventually. We are like a Firewall which protects the whole network and blocks the attacks early on"
"This is a gradual process. The technology is developed by the leading companies in the world, and it will have five stages. The fifth and final stage, which is still a few years away, is the fully autonomous stage. For car manufacturers, one of the goals of connecting cars to the Internet is monetizing the car's data. This data can be used to offer advanced services, similar to the iPhone and app revolutions.
"Until now, drivers paid the manufacturer only when purchasing the car, but the moment the car is connected to the Internet, the manufacturer and other service providers can offer the driver additional services using a monthly subscription model. These services can include in-vehicle Internet, emergency calls from the vehicle to 911 when an accident occurs, remote software updates, igniting and heating or cooling the vehicle before you reach it and many more.
"There is no doubt that ultimitly vehicles will be completely autonomous, and then there won't be any need to buy a car. We'll order a car like we order a cab today. To prepare the infrastructure for that stage, we need to connect all cars to the Internet. To ride an autonomous car, we'll need to rely on a computer to take us from one place to the other. People won't ride an autonomous car unless they know it's completely safe, which is why cyber defense for connected cars is critical. Excellent security will enable the prospering of this industry".
Upstream Security has 20 employees today, and is adamantly recruiting 20 to 30 additional personnel. "Our product is already installed in some of the largest fleets around the world. The registration for trial and demo on the company's website: www.upstream.auto, is open for all connected car fleets", says Levy.