Argus raises $26m to protect connected cars from hackers

Israeli cyber-security firm’s embedded cyber-security solution suite for vehicles safeguards critical systems from attack

Argus Cybersecurity founders from right to left: Zohar Zisapel, Chairman; Oron Lavi, VP R&D; Ofer Ben Noon, CEO; Yaron Galula, CTO (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Argus Cybersecurity founders from right to left: Zohar Zisapel, Chairman; Oron Lavi, VP R&D; Ofer Ben Noon, CEO; Yaron Galula, CTO (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel’s Argus CyberSecurity, one of the first companies in the world to provide anti-hacking solutions for connected cars, announced last week that it had raised $26 million in Series B funding. Investors include a who’s who of the venture capital world, including Magna International, Allianz SE, and the SBI Group as well as existing investors Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital and the co-founder of the RAD Group, Zohar Zisapel.

Argus has for the past two years been developing a system to detect and prevent real-time hacking of “connected cars,” vehicles that upload and download data via the mobile Internet. Such cars are already here, with higher-end autos from companies like GM, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and others equipped with wifi (using 3G and 4G data connections), allowing drivers and passengers to use the Internet in their vehicles to get directions, tune into cloud-based music services, and more.

Connected cars are another aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT), which, its proponents believe, will make life easier and better for everyone. Whether that comes to pass remains to be seen, but meanwhile, IoT – and connected cars – has given hackers more opportunities to ply their craft. A good example of what could happen came last July, when white-hat hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek took control of a Chrysler Jeep vehicle being driven at top speed by Wired journalist Andy Greenberg. Miller and Valasek turned the radio on full-blast, ran the air-conditioner, and even took control of the accelerator – scaring Greenberg to the point where he was forced to “drop any semblance of bravery, grab my iPhone with a clammy fist, and beg the hackers to make it stop.”

The demonstration was an extension of an attack the two hackers undertook in 2013, when they took control of the braking system of a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius – but with laptops connected to the cars’ computers. In their latest escapade, the two relied entirely on the Jeep’s wifi connection, exploiting a weakness in Chrysler’s Uconnect software, which allows connection to the Internet in hundreds of thousands of Chrysler and Fiat vehicles already on the road. All a hacker has to do is identify a vehicle’s IP address – it has to have one, of course, in order to access the Internet – and the rest is by-the-book scripting, similar to taking control of a remote computer, smartphone, or any other Internet of Things connected device.

To fend off such attacks, Argus has developed a ready-to-embed, cyber security solution suite for vehicles, which prevents a vehicle’s critical systems from being hacked. The system can be installed on the vehicle assembly line as an integrated unit, without requiring any changes in the manufacturing process, engine, or components.

The Argus system does a thorough analysis of the communication packets (the segments of data) that come into and go out of the vehicle. Because the range of communications in a vehicle’s infrastructure is limited – it’s only supposed to be sending or receiving specific kinds of communication, to specific IP addresses – the analysis can quickly determine if anything is amiss, preventing a vehicle’s critical components from being hacked in real-time. Argus, which has R&D facilities in Israel and a center in Michigan – to be near the business center of the American automotive industry – had previously raised $4 million last year in Series A funding.

“Facing growing public concern and emerging regulatory oversight, the automotive industry clearly adopted a proactive approach towards cyber security. The projects we have completed and others we are now collaborating on with leading car manufacturers and industry players prove that cyber security has become a top priority for the industry’s key decision makers,” said Ofer Ben-Noon, co-founder and CEO at Argus. “This new round, made by well-respected investors at a unique market inflection point, is a vote of confidence in Argus’ technology and its team. As demand for Argus solutions increases, we will use the funds invested for accelerating the development of our product offering, and strengthen our market reach.”

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