With so many household names at the center of data breach headlines over the past year, it’s not surprising that other Fortune 500 companies are taking notice. Perhaps trying to inoculate itself from such issues, General Motors on Sept. 24 announced that it has selected its first cybersecurity chief.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Massimilla has been elected to this post, bringing storied experience dealing with complex technology issues to an increasingly sophisticated automotive landscape. Prior to his new post, Massimilla was manager of a GM engineering group.
“As we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” GM executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss said in a statement regarding the hire. "We have to look at [car technology] on a critical systems level. We see this competitive advantage."
Given how quickly vehicles have become networked, intelligent machines with onboard computing systems and connections to Internet services, the space is particularly fraught with risk concerning cyber security.
Innovative hackers could, for example, use the GPS services associated with a car to gain information about the locations that individuals frequently visit. And as “deanonymization” techniques make it increasingly easy for hackers to piece together complete profiles on individuals using fragmented information. New threats like this will require creative thinking to protect the exploitable vulnerabilities, and as such roles like Massimilla’s are likely to proliferate.
The public scrutiny facing corporations like Target, Home Depot, and Neiman Marcus over their lapsed cybersecurity defenses in past year may have also been motivation for the move. Given the reputational issues facing GM over their recall of vehicles in 2014, it’s certainly a safe bet to get out in front of additional cyber security issues.