An interesting thing has been occurring in the cyber security world in recent years. As technology generally embeds deeper into specific areas and gets applied to situations outside of the regular IT realm, cyber security vendors have popped up with specific value propositions that target security in a particular end-user context. Recently I wrote about Medigate, a security startup aiming to secure medical devices. This week it is the turn of Upstream, a company aiming to deliver cyber security for connected and autonomous vehicle fleets.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock will know that there is massive interest and activity in the autonomous and connected vehicle space. Obviously, Tesla gets the lion’s share of the attention, but virtually every vehicle company, not to mention all the ride-sharing vendors and the webscale folks as well, are investing in these areas. And these will be lucrative markets moving into the future – there are an estimated 60 million connected cars on the road today that include commercial trucks, vans, buses and private vehicles and predictions are that these numbers will grow hugely — Gartner expects there will be 250 million connected vehicles by 2020.

And, sadly, where technology is being applied to a sector at scale, nefarious parties are quickly attracted. As connected and autonomous driving technologies become mainstream, security attacks on vehicle fleets––groups of motor vehicles owned or leased by a business, government agency or other entity––are likely to increase drastically. More cars are connected to the Internet today than ever before; driving hackers to develop new and more efficient ways to infiltrate and disrupt automotive software.

And this is where new approaches to security come in – today’s automotive cyber security solutions are in-vehicle and suffer from slow upgrade cycles which impede their agility as well as their ability to protect against the most recent cybersecurity threats. Upstream, on the other hand, is cloud-based and hence has an innate ability to mine, in real time, the wealth of data that autonomous vehicles are producing. By centralizing cybersecurity in the cloud instead of in-vehicle, threats are detected and prevented before they even reach a vehicle’s network.

Yoav Levy, Upstream CEO and co-founder reflects on the changing state of automotive cybersecurity:

The automotive industry is going through a massive disruption. Consequently, security solutions for the car are undergoing rapid advances at an unprecedented rate. We’re using emerging technologies like AI and machine learning to carry out an evolutionary leap in cybersecurity for passenger and commercial vehicles. Riding the wave of momentum from our recent company launch and early customer wins, this new investment round further validates our technology and approach, and will fuel our commitment to be the leading force of innovation in security for connected and autonomous transportation.

The investment round that Levy is referring to is a $9 million Series A which the company has just announced – the round was led by CRV (Charles River Ventures) and included expanded investments from Israeli-based Glilot Capital Partners and Maniv Mobility. The Series A comes hot on the heels of a $2 million seed funding round in June. Izhar Armony, a general partner at CRV is one convinced investor – both in the market opportunity and Upstream’s opportunity to seize it. He comments on the company saying:

Connected and semi-autonomous cars are already a reality, so it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ these self-driving technologies will be deployed at scale. Upstream’s engineers were the first to solve how to protect connected cars and autonomous vehicles using the cloud, crucial for near-term and future deployment of automotive cyber security at the fleet level. We believe in Upstream’s groundbreaking approach to secure connected and autonomous vehicles and in the abilities of cybersecurity veterans, Yoav Levy and Yonatan Appel, to build a rapidly growing business in this hot, emerging space.

MyPOV

It’s fair to say that the automotive industry has been slow to grasp the security implications of its head-first run to autonomous and connected vehicles. If Upstream can secure some good reference customers, it has a real opportunity in this space.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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