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US Priming Infrastructure for Self-Driving Cars

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on June 13, 2018, discussing how the country should prepare for the impact of self-driving cars. The hearing delved into the effects of self-driving cars on American road infrastructure, including broadband and safety measures.

Points of Concern for Self-Driving Cars

photo of Senator Shelley Moore Capito with her quoted statement of concern on self-driving cars
Senator Shelley Moore Capito expresses her concern on self-driving cars

Senator Shelley Moore Capito asked how self-driving technology would apply to rural areas where broadband is often spotty. She mentioned that she would not trust a self-driving car operating in the sharp twists and turns in her hometown in West Virginia.

Another concern was the security of these driverless vehicles. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts wanted to discuss cyberattacks as this is critical in protecting the privacy of passengers.

Fatalities related to self-driving cars were at the center of controversy earlier this year. In March, Uber was testing a self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian in Phoenix, Arizona. Later that month, a Tesla on autopilot crashed onto a roadside barrier and caught fire in California, killing the driver.

Director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation William Panos said his state is leading the way in testing connection technology for autonomous vehicles. Wyoming is implementing a pilot program using dedicated short-range communications technology that connects to infrastructure and other vehicles.

Senator Tom Carper of Delaware pointed out that self-driving cars can read traffic signs incorrectly. Defaced road signs can easily trick autonomous vehicles, interfering with navigation and speed, and therefore compromising road safety.

The Human Element

Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, mentioned that the lawmakers should keep the 4.4 million professional American drivers in mind. While disruptive technology has benefits, the federal government must ensure that innovations do not upset the American labor force.

In 2016, there were 37,461 road-related deaths in the US; and pedestrian deaths also rose to 9% that year. This was according to Shailen Bhatt, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. She also noted that human error causes 90% of road accidents. She is hopeful that the statistics will help develop safer and more accurate technologies for passengers and pedestrians.

Recognizing Rural

While the senate committee mostly discussed urban driving, universities like the MIT and the Michigan Technological University are conducting their own research. They are exploring the sociological, economical, and technological impact of self-driving cars in rural communities. They understand that rural communities have been overlooked by technological advancements and wouldn’t want them to feel any more alienated. Interviews with locals showed that they are apprehensive but also excited.

MTU is researching on the environmental impacts such as land use, specifically on how self-driving cars can navigate unmarked roads; reduced fuel consumption; and reduced collisions with wildlife through AI. MTU is using discussions with locals to rethink safety and transportation access, especially for senior citizens and students in rural communities.

Meanwhile, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has developed a method for autonomous vehicles. These cars navigate country roads with minimal visual clues such as traffic signs, lane markers, and streetlights. They noted that 65% of US roads do not provide lane markings, and a third of US roads are unpaved. The new technology called CSAIL’s MapLite uses a combination of GPS and lidar, increasing cars’ awareness of its surroundings.

Challenges Ahead for Autonomous Vehicles

Lawmakers are pausing on the regulation of autonomous vehicles until there are changes that address the safety of the public. Senators say self-driving cars are still an emerging and unproven technology. The industry has to have specific provisions to ensure the driverless cars navigate accurately and safely. They must also physically protect their passengers and their privacy, as well as those of pedestrians.

Experts are willing to discuss with those who oppose driverless cars in urban and rural America to expand the conversation. Other countries have successfully started testing on autonomous vehicles, and so should the US. They are keen on engaging in a dialogue to address all their questions and concerns, and ultimately support the progress of the legislation.


Sources: The Hill, Michigan Tech,

Muzzling Future Cyber Attacks

Over the past two years, ransomware numbers have gone down significantly, but as their numbers decline, cyber attacks have increased significantly. With new hacking advancements, enterprises must prepare for future cyber attacks. There are a number of ways to prevent these attacks—from spreading awareness to developing active defense strategies.

ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2018 report culled findings from 2,366 respondents in healthcare, technology/consulting services, finance, and many other fields. According to the research, 50% of the respondents have experienced an increase in cyber attacks and a drop in ransomware attacks. Forty-five percent of respondents experienced a ransomware attack this year, compared to 62% in 2016.

Cyber Attacks on the Rise

computer screen with display box showing progress of future cyber attacks
Hacking, cyber attacks on the rise

Eighty percent of the ISACA survey respondents expected that they will experience a cyber attack this year. Despite the increase in number, the techniques used by attackers remain the same—phishing (44%), malware (38%), and social engineering (28%). It is also worth noting that most threat actors were cyber criminals (33%), hackers (23%), nonmalicious insiders (14%), malicious insiders (11%), nation states (10%), and hacktivists (6%).

Ransomware attacks are no longer a lucrative pursuit, which explains its decrease. Cryptocurrency mining malware is now a more popular and more insidious method. It generates little financial return, but takes advantage of a person’s computer so it can contribute to CPU cycles for mining. Cryptocurrency may be a more prevalent scheme in the future because it can operate and generate value for an attacker without active access to an unknowing person’s computer software.

Push for Preparedness

Half of the respondents said that most of the cyber attacks involved extortion for money, although the frequency has declined. People are now more vigilant and prepared for these kinds of intrusions. More ransomware countermeasures are also widely available.

Ransomware attacks have dropped as people now refuse to pay ransoms. Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicate that they do not have the capacity to pay off these ransoms. Ninety-six percent also said they don’t have a supply of cryptocurrency for any ransomware payments.

Eighty-six percent of the respondents said they now have strategies in place to thwart cyber attacks. Seventy-eight percent now follow a formal process to deal with attacks, compared to last year’s 53%. Companies are also providing employee awareness training to better spot any oncoming breaches, which include ransomware.

The survey also indicated that threat intelligence is used more, but respondents are not familiar with active defense. Active defense strategies demonstrate high success levels when implemented. Active defense systems, such as CryptoMove, make information more difficult to attack, steal, and destroy, by moving, distributing, and re-encrypting data distribution. Some active defense systems leverage on deception and honeypots, which trick and confuse attackers with traps and advanced forensics.

Recent Notable Cyber Attacks

Massive companies that have complex security systems are no exception to attacks. In May, Chile’s largest financial institution, Banco De Chile (BDC), was attacked. The cyber attack shut down 9,000 workstations and 500 servers as a cover-up to illegally funnel $10M to accounts in Hong Kong. The attackers managed to complete four separate fraudulent transactions before they were discovered. They also used a highly damaging wiper malware that totally deleted disk information. It took almost two weeks before the bank resumed its services.

On the same month, Mexico’s Bancomext was also the target of a cyber attack where $18–20M went missing. Similar to BDC, illegal transactions went through SWIFT, a network for international bank transfers. Hackers infiltrated the network through an activated malware after an employee engaged with a phishing email.

Preventive Measures for Future Cyber Attacks

TrendMicro released suggestions and best practices to mitigate the destructive capabilities of malware:

  1. Identify and address security gaps
    • Regularly patch and update networks and systems to remove exploitative vulnerabilities.
    • Create strict patch management policies and regularly back up data.
  2. Secure mission-critical infrastructure
    • Secure infrastructure where personal and corporate data are stored.
  3. Enforce the principle of least privilege
    • Restrict access to mission-control data and only to system administrators.
  4. Proactively monitor online premises
  5. Foster a culture of cybersecurity
    • Train employees to be mindful of social engineering attacks in the form of spam and phishing emails.
  6. Create a proactive incident response strategy
    • Implement incident response strategies that provide concrete actions about threats.

A Global Issue

Enterprises and large institutions could be at risk for cyber attacks. Vulnerable institutions put their customers and clients at risk. These could cost them huge losses in the business and customer base, immense network repair, and compensation for those affected. Companies should invest in cyber security as any security problems could easily escalate to a national security issue, or even terrorism. While cyber risk is not quantifiable, its results definitely are. They could avert any risks if there are strong security measures in place. And this doesn’t only apply to large companies, but to small business as well. In 2015, 43% of cyber attacks targeted small businesses. Cyber security tech is continually evolving and changing, and professionals must be cognizant of this fact by putting value in their own cyber security policies and defense plans.