Israel's Upstream wins funding to expand in automotive cybersecurity

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Israel’s Upstream Security has secured $30 million funding from a wide range of global automakers and venture capital firms as it looks to tap into the increasingly competitive market for software to protect vehicles from hackers.

The automotive cybersecurity market is forecast to see exponential growth, from around $16 million in 2017 to an expected $2.3 billion in 2025 according to IHS Markit.

“This ... is a testament to the severity of the problem the industry is tackling,” Upstream Chief Executive Yoav Levy said in a statement announcing it had secured $30 million from Alliance Ventures, the venture capital fund of French automaker Renault and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Swedish truckmaker Volvo, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co [NMUIC.UL] and early - Charles River Ventures, Glilot Capital and Maniv Mobility - also took part, Upstream said.

Cyber carjacking received attention when a 2015 article by technology magazine Wired showed researchers hacking a Jeep Cherokee SUV while it was driving.

“The problem on the mind in some boardrooms of the (automakers) is really what are the consequences and the risks that we now have in our cars once we introduce connectivity to them,” Upstream Vice President Dan Sahar told Reuters. “No company wants to be the next one that happens to.”

Hackers affecting the safety of cars would be the “doomsday scenario” for the industry, but recalls or damage to a company’s brand can be costly as well, he said.

Upstream will use the funds to double staff numbers, Sahar said, particularly in sales as well as research and development.

“Security is the core element of the connected vehicle which we cannot compromise,” Yunseong Hwang, vice president of Hyundai’s Open Innovation Investment Group, said in the statement. “Upstream has demonstrated how its optimized security technology can strengthen vehicle security.”

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, editing by Louise Heavens