By Mario Galatovic, Vice President Products & Alliances, Utimaco
The connectivity of devices has the power to transform.
However, with every transformative technology, there is the potential for risks. Connected devices come with much data, and the vast collection of highly sensitive data in connected vehicles necessitates an entirely new level of security – especially against ransomware, cyber war, and other cyberattacks that exploit software and hardware flaws.
As there is a growing complexity within connected vehicles, it is therefore critical to protect smart components and devices right from the time they are manufactured until the end of their lifecycle.
Who’s really ‘driving’ your vehicle?
‘Connected vehicles’ are vehicles that have interconnected systems that send wireless data about the driver and internal systems back to the manufacturer. They are typically composed of multiple amounts of hardware and software components across a complex supply chain. In many respects, a connected vehicle is considered a ‘computer on wheels’.
Due to the integration of numerous automated driving features, as well as a wide range of communication interfaces, connected vehicles have a complex architectural design. What’s more, in addition to endangering the safety of other road users, a successful external attack on any/all of these features have the potential to harm passengers’ privacy or the operations of organizations seriously. Therefore, increased vehicle connectivity can escalate the risk of cyberattacks.
Attackers have the potential to attack (or hack) connected vehicles in a variety of ways. For example, they can take advantage of flaws in the mobile app that controls the vehicle, disrupt the communication channel, hack into internal vehicle systems or even attack the vehicle’s backend system. Any or all of these types of attacks, if left unprotected, can put the entire vehicle supply chain at risk.
Connected vehicles – the potential threats
The automotive and cybersecurity news industries are inextricably linked (or connected). As such, we need to look at this relationship from four perspectives.
First, electrical components that act as small computers in charge of vehicle functions, communication between these components, which represent the vehicle’s entire system, the multiple interfaces between the vehicle and external and how data transfer outside of the vehicle could include data transferred to the cloud.
What we mean by this is that every smart component and device in the vehicle promotes connectivity which also means that every driver’s ‘convenience’ increases risk.
To ensure the safety of the vehicle, smart components and devices must be protected from the point of manufacture until the end of the life cycle. This is possible through device attestation – which enables all parts and information authentication at each access point and with each information exchange.
Authentication aids in the protection of components and devices from tampering and ensures that they communicate securely and reliably. Rather than fixing security flaws as they arise, vehicle manufacturers should address cybersecurity from the start.
It is important that each part is authenticated at each access point and information exchange. Attestation allows vehicle manufacturers to identify devices that have been tampered with and is used to verify the authenticity of the hardware.
Each device must communicate securely and reliably with its manufacturer, the infrastructure, as well as other vehicles, including authorized third parties.
To validate that the device is authentic and untampered, the manufacturer or service provider must take measures to ensure the authenticity of the firmware and software installed in automobiles and guarantee a tamper-free installation process.
Coupled with this is key injection that enables manufacturers to provide reliable device attestation. The cryptographic keys are generated within the secure boundaries of a Hardware Security Module (HSM) and injected into the smart component such as a vehicle’s Electronic Control Units (ECUs).
This is the unit that controls the mechanics of electronic features within a vehicle. This trusted injection process establishes the unique identity for each ECU, ensuring its integrity throughout the production and operational life cycles to guarantee authenticity and tamper-free parts.
Overall, end-to-end security must be used by the manufacturer to protect all data and information exchanges in order to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks.
The importance of automotive cybersecurity
As we’ve covered, the increasingly interconnected nature of a vehicle’s control modules means there is no safety without security. Security features must include not only just physical access and protection of confidential information but also critical safety systems.
In order to stop unauthorized access to embedded systems and data, automotive vehicle manufacturers have to consider and be mindful of every single type of cyber-attack. Embedded security measures provide a means of ensuring that security is not compromised, as well as safeguarding manufacturers’ investment and drivers’ privacy.