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FBI watching for cyber-hacking involving Detroit automakers & autonomous vehicles

Posted at 11:40 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 23:40:29-05

(WXYZ) — The FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge says there are emerging threats here in Michigan, including the growing danger of cyber hacking.

Groups and foreign countries are looking to steal valuable secrets from metro Detroit companies and local universities.

Related: Detroit FBI 'laser-focused' on preventing acts of domestic terrorism in Michigan

Cyber hacking continues to be a major threat, facing metro Detroit, and the entire state of Michigan. That’s why the FBI here is working closely with companies and universities to stop it.”

Tim Waters, the newly-appointed FBI special agent in charge, says the autonomous vehicle technology and other valuable technology has hackers overseas working to seal it for themselves.

“It speaks to the partnerships with the private sector we need to get after that threat," Waters said.

Research & development, intellectual property, Waters says companies doing defense contract work along with our research universities, all attracting attention of countries like China and Russia.

Related: New FBI Special Agent in Charge in Detroit: The public is instrumental in the work we do every day

“What could cyber hackers be looking to steal here in Michigan?" Reporter Simon Shaykhet asked.

“There is a litany of defense companies in Michigan, that do all sorts of projects for DOD and other agencies," Waters said.

Related: Watch: FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge on domestic terrorism, cyber threats & more

Digging deeper, the FBI says artificial intelligence is another area Michigan universities and companies are making great progress at, funded by government grants.

With its tremendous value, the FBI says it is meeting regularly with researchers and company leaders to improve security on a regular basis, promote backups and update systems.

Related: Submit a tip to the FBI tip line online here

“Those technologies are of great interest to our adversaries as well. They don’t sit idly by. If they can hack into a company’s database and steal valuable info, they’ll certainly do it," he said.

Waters adds that ransomware attacks to hospitals and schools are emerging as another serious part of the threat. The FBI is going after hackers who are caught, and they face mong the toughest possible prison sentences in the federal system.