EU will fund car, hospital and airport IT security research

ENISA, the EU network security agency, has added smart vehicles, airports and hospitals to its remit

Smart cars, airports and hospitals are likely to increasingly become targets for hackers -- and now the European Union's Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has them in its sights too.

The agency has added intelligent transport systems and smart health services to its remit for 2016. It plans to analyse the security risks inherent in their communications networks, and wants governments to take up its recommendations for securing them by 2017, it said Monday.

The research will focus on the problems posed by the introduction of smart objects and machine-to-machine communications to replace humans in airport supply chains, whether that's for the delivery of spare parts to aircraft, luggage to conveyor belts or bottled water to airport stores.

In transport, ENISA will focus on smart cars and intelligent roads, but not public transportation. The stakes here are high as European countries decide whether to allow self-driving cars on to public roads, and where it has been shown that even nominally human-controlled cars can be remotely controlled by attackers.

Health care is another area ripe for research, as manufacturers discover that obscurity does not provide sufficient security for remotely programmable prosthetic devices such as pacemakers or insulin pumps. Patients willingly increase the potential that information about their health will leak by constantly wearing fitness trackers or similar gadgets. If companies such as Theranos convince regulators to let them move hundreds of laboratory tests into a single computerized box, even diagnostics could become a focus for medical blackmail or life-threatening disruption. ENISA will look at the cybersecurity risks in the communication systems in and between hospitals, cloud service providers, insurance companies and smart laboratories.

While the organization tends not to hunt for software security vulnerabilities itself, it plays a role in aggregating information about the many threats to critical infrastructure and helping governments and businesses plan their responses.

Airports, hospitals and cars figure in ENISA's 2016 work program. In previous years, it has conducted similar studies of smart grids, smart homes and Internet infrastructure.

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Peter Sayer

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