Securing the Mobile Office: Your Car

Sue Marquette Poremba

When I'm in my car, I like to listen to music and enjoy some "unplugged" time. I'm in the minority, I know. Our vehicles have become remote offices and today's cars are being equipped with the latest technologies, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. I have friends with cars loaded with more Internet technology than my office, and because my brain is always thinking about how to keep my computers, phones, etc. safe from hackers, I've often wondered how secure vehicles are. After all, there are all kinds of warnings to avoid conducting sensitive work at Starbucks, but what about the company car?

 

It seems Ford has thought about the same thing . Using its SYNC technology, Ford has developed an in-car security system for its Internet and wireless technology features.

 

Ford has outlined six safeguards and technologies, powered by SYNC, that take a holistic approach to identity theft management, protecting, concealing and securing personal and professional information in the car. These include:

 

  1. SYNC Firewall-Ford has built firewalls into the in-car wireless network and the vehicle itself, to help prevent unauthorized access to the vehicle.
  2. SYNC Phone Pairing Protection-One-time pairing of a phone to SYNC means data is not stored when the phone is removed from the dock.
  3. Encrypted Jukebox-Built-in digital rights management and encryption features are unique to each navigation unit.
  4. "Home" Protection-SYNC users can enter a code that prevents anyone else from accessing information, such as their home address or phone directory.
  5. Engine Immobilizer-Ford technology uses a wireless radio-frequency transmission to transfer an electronic code between a transponder in the key to the vehicle's ignition system.
  6. Securicode Keyless Entry

 

Jim Buczkowski, director, Ford Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering, spoke with me about SYNC. He told me:

 

We want to protect the car from anything that might be brought in, like a virus. SYNC is architected with a firewall between the consumer side and the vehicle side. Because SYNC is interfacing with many types of devices, we wanted to keep that separate from the vehicle side that is controlling the engine. There are two separate processors, and the firewall has two access points in SYNC.

 

Our security models are put together with our enterprise IT organization, so we're following the principles and practices that the IT community uses to protect the company. We're not inventing new things, but we're trying to use the best practices of the IT security community.

 

Another feature that Buczkowski mentioned is the ability to protect the data on your phone if it had been linked into the Bluetooth technology in the car. Once the Bluetooth connection is severed, the vehicle does not have access to that information any longer -- an important feature for anyone who shares a vehicle that has been used for business-related communications.



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