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General Motors Co. has hired a new chief product cybersecurity officer — someone to lead protection of new vehicle technology from hackers — as part of the company’s reorganization of its engineering operations, the company’s head of global product development said Tuesday.

The Detroit automaker named Jeffrey Massimilla as its new cybersecurity leader, Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, told reporters Tuesday in Detroit following remarks given at the 2014 MICHauto Summit.

Massimilla started in his role — a new position — earlier this month, GM said. He already worked for GM, including previously as an engineering group manager in infotainment, the automaker said.

Reuss told reporters that GM benchmarked the military such as the Navy, a defense contractor, Virginia Tech and Boeing to help gather and validate information as it changed the way it is organized and how it designs and engineers products. That reorganization came in wake of GM’s ignition switch recall crisis of older Chevy Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars that the automaker linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes; an independent claims fund administrator has pegged the death toll higher at 21.

“As we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems in the vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very, very critical systems level and do it defect free for the customer,” Reuss said.

Security and privacy of “connected” vehicles, or cars equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication, is one of many industrywide concerns as automakers work toward self-driving cars.

Many 2015 GM vehicles also include an embedded 4G LTE mobile WiFi hotspot and the automaker will continue to roll out the Internet connection in more vehicles globally in future years.

Earlier this month, David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said he wants automakers by next year to establish a system that would allow carmakers to share information about cybersecurity threats to data used in vehicles of today and tomorrow.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

Twitter.com/MBurden_DN

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