Autonomous driving, electromobility, connected cars and car sharing – the automotive industry is in a state of upheaval. New technologies and digitalized processes bring numerous advantages to automotive companies, enabling them to meet new customer needs on the one hand and to remain competitive on the other. However, the ongoing digitalization of the industry not only offers advantages, but also provides hackers with an ever greater target for attacks. And cyber criminals are trying to exploit these intensively: The security analysts of the Hornetsecurity Security Lab discovered that the automotive sector, after the energy and logistics industry, is one of the most attacked industries worldwide in the past year.

Email Communication- Driveway for Malware?

In order to get into the systems of companies, email communication is the main gateway for cyber attacks. After analyzing the malicious emails to which automotive companies were exposed in 2019, security experts were able to break them down according to specific types of attack. In the process, the Hornetsecurity Security Lab observed a high proportion of email attacks with malicious attachments being carried out at automotive companies: Spy software, ransomware or other destructive malware is downloaded unnoticed. Attacks of this kind can have serious consequences, such as manipulation of the operating process, manufacturing downtime or the theft of secret information from the research and development department. Around 29% of the emails classified as malicious are messages with embedded links to infected websites.

The mobility of the future is digital and vulnerable

It isn’t just smaller suppliers whom fall victim to hacker attacks, this is proven by the recent cyber attacks on the multinational car companies Hyundai and BMW. The Vietnamese cyber spy group “APT32” is suspected of having installed the malware “CobaltStrike” on BMW’s IT systems in order to spy on the company networks. It is assumed that the hackers were looking for internal development information – however, more detailed information is not available, as the car manufacturer’s IT team took the affected computers off the network in early December 2019, before the cyber criminals were able to steal important data.

In general, companies are increasingly exposed to professionally developed cyber attacks by organized hacker groups. Although there are occasional individual attackers, the motives behind such attacks point to planned, structured and experienced groups. Some of these cyber criminal gangs can now be recognized by certain tactics and the techniques they use, and some have even specialized in certain industries or markets as targets for their attacks.

The new “Cybersecurity Special – Cyber attacks on the automotive sector picking up speed” illustrates which cyber criminal groups are targeting the automotive sector, what goals the hackers are pursuing with their attacks, and what an attack on an automotive company looks like. It uses in-depth analyses as well as current incidents to describe the cyber threat situation in which the automotive industry currently finds itself and provides insights into the situation.