Those old enough to remember can think back to the Cape and Dagger days of the Cold War and espionage without the internet. Imagine what the intelligence communities would have done if they had the internet back then. Today, something even more useful and potentially harmful is available to these organizations, your new car. It’s true; your new car could potentially pose a national security risk.
Tesla banned for security reasons in a Chinese seaside resort
It’s no secret that the Chinese government is extremely cautious and wary of any form of Western technology and potential data collection. Most of us would never think it could be our cars, but China certainly does. Wired tells us that Tesla has been banned from Beidaihe, a seaside resort along the coast, for the next two months. This is not the first ban either. Prior to President Xi Jinping’s visit to Chengdu, Tesla was also banned from that city.
What is the reason for these bans? The advanced array of cameras, sensors and data collection technology on board these Tesla vehicles. Although China has given no official reason, these bans appear to be motivated by fears that a Tesla vehicle could gain the crosshairs of Chinese leadership meetings and potentially leak information to the United States.
Will China’s new electric vehicles collect and send data from the west?
Unless Europe and the United States take the same precautions as China, it is almost a given that electric vehicles made in China will collect data and transmit it to Beijing for analysis.
You might not think the collected data could be very useful, but new cars with GPS information and cloud-based storage collect a lot of data about your daily habits. Although you may not become the target of an attack, your car information could be part of the national security risk based solely on the information collected and sent to China.
China cracks down on national security risks with tough regulations
Tesla was to build a dedicated data center in mainland China. This satisfied the regulation that all data collected by vehicles in the country stays in China. This was in response to rules released in 2021 that essentially prohibit automakers from transmitting data across borders. All companies must report to the Chinese government what kind of data they collect on vehicle owners.
Can data breaches and spying really happen with new cars?
Yes, not only can these things happen, but they have already happened. In an effort to help Tesla and other automakers make their vehicles more difficult to access, David Columbo was given access to various Tesla vehicles in different countries. He wrote for the Medium about his experience, and the amount of data collected is incredible. He could follow regular daily patterns and take control of certain vehicle systems. This has created serious concerns in pirated models.
Could a national security risk create problems for political convoys?
Yes, a breach of the data system used in modern political convoys could lead to serious problems. You might think governments would be one step ahead of hackers, but DW reported that Germany’s state-owned fleet of vehicles was allegedly hacked not too long ago. This fleet of vehicles transports heads of state and dignitaries across the country. Germany thought Russia was behind this hack in 2020, but found nothing to link Russia to the hack.
The unpopular choice for ensuring data security
How can the federal government ensure that your new vehicle does not become a national security risk resulting in the deaths of world leaders? Policy makers need to tighten regulation, which is certainly the most unpopular action they can take. As we live in a country where we feel regulated to death, protecting data collected from drivers and household information is more important than ever.
We may be fast approaching an era that George Orwell warned of with Big Brother watching us, the rampant Cloak and Dagger espionage, and a rollback into the Cold War. Of course, some of them could also be nothing more than extreme scenarios. Still, government leaders and automakers should do something to make the data collected from our vehicles much more secure.
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