Legislation would improve cybersecurity and resilience in the aviation system, protect drivers from cybersecurity and privacy risks in increasingly computerized vehicles


Washington (July 19, 2019) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, this week reintroduced two pieces of legislation to address cybersecurity in cars and on airplanes in the age of the Internet of Things.


The first bill – the Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act – directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards to ensure cybersecurity in increasingly computerized vehicles and to protect drivers’ privacy. The bill additionally establishes a rating system – or a “cyber dashboard” – that informs consumers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy beyond those minimum standards. Finally, the SPY Car Act instructs the Federal Highway Administration to create a “cybersecurity tool” and appoint a “cyber coordinator” that will help transportation authorities identify, detect, protect against, respond to, and recover from cyber incidents.


The second piece of legislation – the Cybersecurity Standards for Aircraft to Improve Resilience (Cyber AIR) Act – requires the disclosure of information relating to cyberattacks on aircraft systems, as well as the establishment of standards to identify and address cybersecurity vulnerabilities to the United States commercial aviation system. The Cyber AIR Act also seeks a report to study cybersecurity vulnerability of consumer Wi-Fi on planes.


“It only takes one hacker to access an aircraft or car’s controls to cause a disaster,” said Senator Markey. “Evolving transportation technologies offer enormous potential to improve safety, help protect the environment, and entertain passengers. But these same technologies could pose massive cybersecurity and privacy vulnerabilities if appropriate safeguards are not in place. The SPY Car and Cyber AIR Acts will make sure our drives and fliers are all able to travel safely in the Internet era.”


“This critical legislation will help protect the public against cybercriminals who exploit advances in technology like wireless-connected aircraft and self-driving cars,” said Senator Blumenthal. “As technology rapidly advances, we must ensure the auto and airline industries protect their systems from cybersecurity attacks. Security and safety cannot be sacrificed as we achieve the convenience and promise of wireless progress.”


A copy of the SPY Car Act can be found HERE.


“Today’s new cars and trucks are ever more reliant on software to function safely, yet our laws and regulations have not been updated to provide cybersecurity standards or basic consumer information,” said Jason K. Levine, Executive Director at the Center for Auto Safety. “This Act will put the industry and the government on the path to protecting U.S. vehicles from hacking attacks and preventing consumer data from being accessed by unauthorized users. Moreover, by providing car buyers with data comparing the cybersecurity of vehicles at the point of sale, it will encourage the market to compete to provide the least hackable cars.”  


“We commend Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) for introducing the SPY Car Act of 2019,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “This legislation is a pro-active approach which acknowledges that cars are increasingly complex and vulnerable to cyberattacks and malicious hacking. The consequences to drivers and all road users could be catastrophic. As cars with automated and connected features proliferate, potential dangers will be magnified. Commonsense standards are absolutely necessary to ensure that vehicles, which are essentially ‘computers on wheels,’ are protected from deadly cyber threats. We urge Congress to advance this legislation with urgency.”


A copy of the Cyber AIR Act can be found HERE.


“We promised to Never Forget our heroes or the lessons of September 11, 2001. This means that as technology advances so should our vigilance and efforts to mitigate threats,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “Senator Markey has a consistent record of standing with us to keep our promise. His introduction of the Cyber Air Act ensures we're keeping up with current threats and protecting the millions of people on our planes and the crews who care for them. This is a small investment to protect millions of lives traveling in our skies every day. All of us are responsible for the duty of care for all passengers and crewmembers.”


In 2016, Senators Markey and Blumenthal called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to adopt robust regulations to ensure that aircraft and ground support equipment are not vulnerable to cyberattacks.