Birmingham’s IncWell Invests in Vehicle Cyber Security Start-Up

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Birmingham-based IncWell, a private venture capital fund, has invested in Ann Arbor-based automotive security supplier TowerSec, which creates products that monitor and thwart cyber threats on the growing number of connected vehicles.

“The (cyber security) threat is growing rapidly as vehicles are becoming increasingly more connected whether to devices and the Internet, or to other connected vehicles,” says Tom LaSorda, founder and managing partner of IncWell, and former CEO of Chrysler Group LLC. “It further intensifies with the continuing development of self-driving or autonomous vehicles. This connectivity puts both lives and personal data at risk.”

Telefonica estimates vehicles with built-in connectivity are estimated to increase from 10 percent of the overall market to 90 percent by 2020, according to its 2014 worldwide-connected car industry report. This means that more vehicles will be connected to the Internet, smartphones, and smart keys.

At the same time, hackers that gain access to an onboard communication system could manipulate a car’s engine and various safety features. For example, a hacker could lock all the brakes, turn the heat on full blast, or shut down the engine.

In January, researchers from a German motoring association found that certain BMWs could be unlocked remotely. Some BMWs have a feature that allows drivers to request to have their cars unlocked remotely from a BMW assistance line.

Founded in 2012, TowerSec has created a product that can help prevent cyber attacks, and it can be installed in vehicles without redesigning the hardware. Another product monitors threats and prevents malicious communications from reaching the vehicle.

IncWell invests in companies across various fields, including a wearable technology company, as well as an app that lets users finds items with their smartphones. IncWell partners include Roger Penske, CEO of Penske Corp. in Bloomfield Township, and Birmingham real estate investor Ted Fuller, among others.

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