In Formula 1 (F1), being in front is the only thing that matters. The same can be said of cybersecurity, with security teams continuously having to stay ahead of threats as threat actors evolve their tactics. For McLaren Racing, both apply.
As a racing team, we are typically concerned about ransomware and supply chain attacks, given we collaborate with many suppliers and vendors. With the team more distributed than ever – we visited 23 venues around the world in 2021 – we also have concerns about people accessing systems remotely.
We want to make sure we do the best we can to protect our data and our people. While there are many tools you can deploy, there is also a need to upskill the team, so everyone has the right skillsets to go racing securely.
With McLaren Racing’s partnership with Immersive Labs, we’ll level up the cyber knowledge, skills and judgement of our people and enable the team and wider organization to operate as effectively and securely as possible.
Performance and safety
In terms of what we need to protect, the systems that enable our cars to go racing, such as telemetry and performance, are essential. If these go offline, or something goes wrong, the cars can’t go out on the track.
Some of the technology we use is off the shelf, and some is homegrown. So another key priority is to make sure the team has the right skills to develop the homegrown capabilities with security in mind.
We also have systems related to driver safety, which are of paramount importance – we want to make sure everything we’re doing has safety front of mind. So secure systems are a top priority.
In addition, F1 is quite a sensitive racing series in terms of the intellectual property that teams generate around car design and engineering. Successfully protecting that information is a vital ingredient in the team’s competitiveness.
Accelerating cyber skills with Immersive Labs
What I’m most excited about with the Immersive Labs partnership is being able to upskill the team – to give them additional skillsets – and measure the impact that has on our cyber resilience.
There’s a diverse mix of users at McLaren – everything from marketing staff using data and digital tools to drive greater fan engagement, to developers and system admins building tools and applications.
That’s a broad set of users for us to manage and support. So having resources that enable our staff to upskill and learn about areas for improvement is really exciting and will mean there is better cyber awareness across the entire team.
A race simulator for cyber
The other exciting element Immersive Labs will bring is the ability to run simulations that are relevant to our business, putting people in real-world scenarios and seeing how they perform in those situations.
The decision-making in F1 is incredibly fast paced and sometimes you have seconds to make a decision, such as whether to pit one of the cars. We use neural networks and machine learning to simulate scenarios and provide next-best decisions.
When we go racing, the track and factory are connected – so the telemetry data from the cars is also seen at the office. Everyone is under the same pressure and it’s sometimes hard in that environment to distinguish what is and isn’t a real cyberthreat.
With Immersive Labs, we can test realistic situations and bring some context around race scenarios – where cyberattacks do happen – to find out how people respond and allow us as a team to be more resilient.
Our work with Immersive Labs will support the existing security technology that we have but also give people additional skills, and make it relevant in their world. It no longer feels like they’re clicking through a box-ticking training exercise.
Applying marginal gains
Ultimately, we need our people to be able to identify threats and make the right decisions.
In F1, the decision-making process is very clear, with the race engineer talking to the driver supported by a multitude of people. We want to do the same for cybersecurity. The work with Immersive Labs will help us optimize communications across the team, so individuals inform the right people at the right time when a threat arises.
We also want our people to know how best to deal with issues when they do arise. Much like our racing team knowing when to stop the car if they see an issue, our people will have the knowledge to take the most appropriate action when there is a cybersecurity issue.
Finding small areas of improvement continuously is the culture we have in the F1 team, and we’re excited about taking the same approach from a cyber perspective with Immersive Labs.