New DOJ group will investigate car hacking

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A new unit within the Justice Department is investigating the threat of hackers targeting “smart” consumer appliances including cars and other internet-connected commercial products, according to a top department official.

“In our division, we’ve just started a group looking at nothing but the Internet of Things,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin, speaking last week at the 2016 Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit.

“The internet on wheels … clearly is going to present national security risks as this transformation takes place,” Carlin said.

At the moment, this Internet of Things cyber defense group is represented by a revolving cast of 5 to 10 DOJ officials. Adam Hickey, acting deputy assistant attorney general of the national security division, is leading the group, which will eventually include representation from the private sector and other federal agencies, Reuters reports.

Carlin described the aim of the unit as planning ahead and spotting threats before they manifest.

“We made that mistake once when we moved all of our data [online], when we digitally connected it,  and didn’t focus on how … terrorists and spies could exploit it,” Carlin said, broadly referencing the prevalence of U.S. government data breaches since entering the age of digital records.

The group does not intend to act as “alarmists,” Carlin described, but rather as a sort of collaborative research and outreach group.

In recent months, the assistant attorney general for national security said he has spent time traveling to Silicon Valley and Detroit — two industrial hubs for software and automobiles, respectively.

In March, the FBI and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a bulletin, cautioning that automobiles are becoming “increasingly vulnerable to hacking” due to the adoption of Internet connected controls and other features.

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