General Motors has hired its first cybersecurity chief to help the automaker combat the inherent security risk hackers can pose to modern vehicles, Reuters reports. Engineer Jeff Massimilla has been moved to the position from a managerial role after GM conducted a review of its engineering operations, Mark Reuss, GM’s Vice President of Global Product Development, told reporters in Detroit Tuesday.
“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” Reuss said. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”
Massimilla became effective in his new position earlier this month after moving from his former role of engineering group manager in infotainment. GM said it looked to the Navy, defense contractors, Virginia Tech and Boeing as it researched ways to change how it designs and engineers its products following its controversial ignition switch recall, which has been linked to 21 deaths to date.
Modern vehicles rely on computers to manage their systems and security experts, along with the NHTSA, say more and more hackers will begin to manipulate the software for malicious reasons. GM has also implemented its OnStar 4G LTE Wi Fi hotspot on many of its 2015 model year vehicles and will introduce more advanced technology going forward, so a continued focus on cybersecurity in its products will be crucial..
Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive, told Reuters the move reflects the growing focus of cybersecurity in the automotive industry.
“The long-term trend is that the auto manufacturers will have to make security part of the hardware and software architecture. It won’t make it impossible to hack, but it will make it hard enough so that there is no financial gain to do the hacking,” he said.