Pontiac is Detroit home for digital security firm Irdeto

This feature is courtesy of Driven, the story of how the Detroit region is leading the world in next-generation mobility.
Digital security company Irdeto considered many options when searching for a location to expand its operations. Munich and Tokyo were in the running, but it was Pontiac, Michigan, that Irdeto ultimately selected.

“Munich, Tokyo, and Detroit are the hubs of OEMs as well as suppliers, which cluster where the OEMs are,” says Stacy Janes, chief security architect for connected transport at Irdeto. “Detroit is ‘Motor City USA’ still, but now it’s the connected Motor City USA for us. A real presence there is important.”

Todd Offer, head of sales for connected transport, was instrumental in making the Pontiac choice. Seeking a walkable community where he could meet with clients, he recognized Pontiac as an affordable choice that checked most of the boxes.

With Pontiac’s push to attract technology companies to set up shop in the city, Irdeto was \ a good fit to join the community and contribute to the tech culture. The company chose a 2,500-square foot space in the historic Riker Building on Huron Street downtown, amd opened on October 10.

Protecting the connected vehicle space

In business since 1969, with divisions that secure connected spaces, media, manufacturing, and commerce, Irdeto ramped up its connected vehicle and transportation sector in 2015. Automotive security is a specialized space with complexities that put driver and passenger safety at the top of the priority list.

“This is one of the reasons for our Detroit office,” says Janes. “We wanted to bring in sales, engineering, and marketing expertise with a long history in this industry. Todd has been in the automotive business for a long time, and can help expand our knowledge of what is in the automotive industry, what they want, and how do they really work.”

With engineering expertise centered Ottawa, Ontario, Irdeto is looking to expand engineering, cyber testing, and development in Michigan.

The critical importance of automotive cybersecurity requires a level of perfection not found in other industries, says Janes, so it makes sense to work closely with automotive OEMs and suppliers who thoroughly understand automotive safety.

“Vehicles have a complete safety component. If an app on an iPhone crashes, you can restart the phone, but if brakes on a car stop working just one percent of the time, that’s really bad,” he explains.

Stopping the attack before it can do harm

Similar to hackers in other internet of things sectors, like satellite television, Hollywood films, mobile and console-based video games, automotive hackers are looking to monetize.

“When Pokemon GO first came out, it was only available in the U.S. during the first week, but there were pirated versions on the internet, and they all had malware,” Janes says. “On phones, that’s bad. On cars, that’s really, really bad.”

Consider those who pirate versions of entertainment features available in vehicles, spread through bogus emails alerting consumers to updates for their connected vehicles. “Someone can send an email that looks like it comes from any OEM that offers a sale on whatever feature can be installed in the vehicle. Click this link and download. We see this all the time. If 50 percent of the population doesn’t dot it, that leaves a big chunk of people who do,” Janes says.

Irdeto works to create cybersecurity solutions that act as guard dogs to protect systems, and then implement artificial intelligence that will learn from the attacks to detect breeches sooner and make the underlying system stronger.

“Security is unlike any other engineering discipline,” says Janes. “The security engineer and the hacker are both intelligent and motivated and both are pushing forward in a constant foot race, working to outdo each other, like a game of cat and mouse.”

“A good mouser has no mice. The goal is to be that cat.”

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