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Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) Systems can be Hacked to Track Drivers’ Whereabouts and Behavior, BGU Researchers Supported by IBM Discover

05/04/2017

 

A Connected Vehicle Network is designed to provide a secure and private method for drivers to use the roads in a certain area most efficiently. Cars connect to access points (Wi-Fi, 3G, LTE) through a central authority like a cloud. The cloud monitors and analyzes the car’s movements and other functions in order to provide certain services to the driver, like driving instructions. 

However, the cloud also provides a service called usage-based insurance (UBI). Usage-based insurance is automobile insurance in which the insurer uses data on driving behavior to set the premium offered to each policyholder. The premiums are adjusted to reflect the individual driver risk profiles based on their driving habits. In order to calculate the risk of each driver properly, the insurance company has to know several driving attributes including total driving time, cornering, and average speed. Commercial UBI programs available today are mainly based on information extracted from the car’s on-board-diagnostics (OBD) system, or from externally installed hardware components, referred to as black-boxes or aftermarket devices. 

Recently, BGU researchers have shown that it is possible, in many cases, to reconstruct a driver’s route from various driving attributes provided to UBI companies, such as cornering events, average speed and total driving time even in cases where the GPS did not track the full route. This breach of privacy could be used to discover a driver’s whereabouts, home, work, who they meet with and many other types of information that a hostile organization could exploit. 

The research was conducted by Prof. Mich​ael Segal from the Department of Co​mmunication Systems Engineering and his Master’s student, Mr. Vladimir Kaplun. The research was part of Kaplun’s thesis and will be submitted to conferences and journals in the future. The research was supported by the IBM CyberSecurity Center of Excellence at BGU. 

Prof. Segal is a past head of the Department and also held a visiting professorship at Cambridge University. Prof. Segal serves as the Managing Editor of one of the most influential journals in the area of computer and system sciences, the Jou​rnal of Computer and System Sciences​.

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