Volkswagen turns to Israeli cyber experts to launch new business

“We need to expand our know-how in cybersecurity in order to systematically advance vehicle cybersecurity for our customers,” said Volkswagen’s head of electrical and electronic development.

Volkswagen, an automobile manufacturer that is no stranger to the threats posed by hackers, is founding a specialized division to protect their next-generation vehicles from cyberattacks. 

By partnering with a foreign security research team laden with former Israeli intelligence officials, Volkswagen announced Wednesday is launching a new, highly specialized venture called Cymotive Technologies. Former head of the Israeli Security Services Yuval Diskin, 27-year Israel Ministry of Defense veteran Tsafrir Kats and Claremont University professor Tamir Bechor will lead Volkswagen’s group. 

“The car and the Internet are becoming increasingly integrated. To enable us to tackle the enormous challenges of the next decade, we need to expand our know-how in cybersecurity in order to systematically advance vehicle cybersecurity for our customers,” said Volkmar Tanneberger, head of electrical and electronic development for Volkswagen, in a statement. 

A recent report from BI Intelligence predicts that there will be more than 380 million connected cars on the road by 2021. 

News of the recently established company follows roughly one month after independent researchers from the University of Birmingham in tandem with German engineering firm Kasper & Oswald publicly disclosed a concerning software vulnerability evident in millions of Volkswagen vehicles. 

A majority of Volkswagen’s automobiles developed since 1995 are reportedly susceptible to a complex exploit that involves intercepting key fob signals and cloning them in order to unlock a door remotely, according to evidence presented by researchers at the Usenix cybersecurity conference in early August. 

Beyond industry, the federal government is also taking steps to signal it understands the threat of hackers targeting commercial-grade vehicles. 

Last week, the Department of Justice’s John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, announced that the DOJ had recently stood up an Internet of Things cybersecurity working group to investigate the risks associated with internet-connect cars, among other things.

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