Security Issues in Connected and Self-Driving Vehicles

Auto Tech Outlook | Thursday, December 16, 2021

Driverless automobiles are no longer a sci-fi fantasy. That is not to say they will receive green lights anytime soon.

FREMONT, CA: The technology underlying 'autonomous' vehicles have evolved dramatically over the last decade, and 'driverless cars' testing has been underway for several years. Indeed, governments worldwide are already conversing with manufacturers and regulators about how and when they will be legally permitted on public roads.

However, as the field gains more attention, other difficulties arise, including resolving complicated human factors, insurance, regulation, infrastructure, security, and, most importantly, safety.

The following are a few difficulties that are now impeding the development of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs):

Essential ecosystem support

CAVs will require roadside infrastructure to operate properly—devices that will replace fixed gantry signs and signals giving in-vehicle information; 5G cellular service providers; and back-office infotainment systems. Security must extend beyond the car to a complete ecosystem, establishing a shared foundation of trust amongst automobiles, associated devices, and supporting infrastructure.

Continuous data security vulnerabilities

Both connected and autonomous technologies rely on vast amounts of data to be generated and analysed. This proliferation of new technology, communication, and data significantly increases the attack surface—in a digital age, technology may be used to access both locally and remotely.

Complexity of CAV

Today's modern automobile is essentially its Internet of Things environment. It is a network of interconnected subsystems, and by 2025, one vehicle is expected to have more than 600 million lines of code—more than a Boeing 787 (6.5 million) or Facebook (62 million). This complexity creates a large attack surface from which an attacker can choose.

Mechanical errors

Engine Control Units (ECUs) are manufactured by a diversified supply chain and provided to the manufacturer as black boxes. Detecting problems will become increasingly difficult as more technology is implemented. Despite this, 300 vulnerabilities were discovered in over 40 ECUs developed by Tier-1 businesses and OEMs in 2020.

Additional attack vectors

An attack vector is a path taken by an attacker to obtain access to a target. Today, attackers have a variety of choices for compromising and gaining control or influence over a CAV. For two examples, most automobiles now include embedded SIMs, making them publicly addressable from anywhere in the world. Similarly, several automobile makers have already installed passenger-facing Wi-Fi hotspots—an easy target for attackers.

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