cybersecurity consists of external as well as internal security. Vehicle hacking is when someone attempts to gain unauthorized access to
vehicle systems for the purpose of retrieving driver data or manipulating
vehicle functionality. Nowadays vehicles are more computerized
than ever before which makes life easier for user. These vehicles can be
controlled remotely from your cellphone, ipad, or laptop.
Over the past decade, the amount of software code in
passenger vehicles has increased significantly that supports many functions
such as steering, braking, safety features, built-in navigation and Bluetooth
systems. However this reliance on software for safety controls leaves vehicle
more vulnerable to cyberattacks or hacking. There are several components in a smart
car such as GPS, LIDAR (light detection
and ranging), radar sensors, video cameras, and ultrasonic sensors that communicate with its computer. A
security breach of these components could provide hackers with a doorway.
As we become more technologically advanced, the hacking method also becomes more sophisticated.
Automated vehicles has multiple interfaces that can be
exploited through direct physical access to vehicles or remotely through
wireless channels. For example, attackers could compromise vulnerabilities in
the vehicles’ Bluetooth units to gain access to in-vehicle networks and take
control over the brakes.
Method of attacks
Any software that
is installed in a vehicle can be analyzed and controlled by the diagnostic
board under the steering wheel. This board can be used by the hacker mostly in
a car repair shop to infect the vehicle.
Telematics unit is normally used to provide
roadside assistance. Attackers can use bluetooth system or cellphone network to
get into this unit.
ECU’s (Engine Control
Units) control an engine’s internal combustion capabilities to improve
performance and efficiency. But programmable ECU’s bring the risk of being
compromised. Depending on the model and make of the car ECU’s vary in location,
forcing hackers to study the car they want to hack in detail. Once located the
hacker can use a variety of techniques
to infiltrate the ECU ranging from replacing the ECU with an already hacked
one, soldering special hardware, install a “middle man” part between the engine
and the ECU, and finally accessing the ECU through the ECU’s trouble shooter
Vehicle bus is one of the most important hackable parts
in a car. Radio, electric car windows and lights are all controlled by the
vehicle bus. The vehicle bus does work under a specific protocol hence hackers must have knowledge of the way it
works. According to a recent research, hackers have found a number of ways to implement cheap microcontrollers such
as the raspberry pi into the vehicle bus, allowing modifications to be done in
a much easier and safer fashion. Thus the attacker may have access to
Telematics System that is used by police to disable stolen cars or report a crash.
Attacker can have access to the cars lock system, that can be disabled. Having
the ability to control the bus will allow a hacker to have control over all
these electronically driven aspects a car leaving the car in a incredibly
Measures taken for
the vehicles’ security
Air Gaps : An air gap also
known as air wall is a network security measure employed on computers to ensure that a secure computer network is physically isolated physically from unsecured networks, such as
an unsecured local
area network or the public Internet . The idea here is to isolate the critical
systems from the most exposed networks within the car. Confirmed by its
application in aviation physically separating the connected devices from the critical
control systems like steering or braking enhances security and reduces the risk
of external attacks that threaten the physical safety of the driver and
Node encryption :
Another solution against cyber attack is embedding cryptographic authentication
and confidentiality services in internode. Although this solution is not fully
established in the automotive space it is adopted widely automation systems
from building automation to next generation energy production systems.
Managing, updating, and continuously verifying cryptographic keys over a very
large installed base is a complex endeavor. However, it could be effectively
applied to select key interconnections between critical and non-critical
systems provided that the involved components or networks support encryption.
Redundancy : In
cyber security, the concept of linking critical functions to more than one
system and eliminating single points of failure is called redundancy. If anyone
system is attacked/hijacked by an external attacker, other redundant systems
are still able to support the function the hijacked system was responsible for.
This is an expensive solution due to the additional weight and cost of the
redundant components. It is standard practice in the defense and aviation
industries, where safety 10 Shifting gears in cyber security for connected cars
factors often require two to four redundant systems. It is being introduced in
the automotive space with safety-critical systems ,for example, by installing
double drive-by-wire steering ECUs. High-speed train control systems highlights
an additional critical element coming from CPUs redundancy. In order to switch
from a CPU to its backup, one must know
in real time when exactly is the CPU compromised and it is a responsibility that could not be passed to that CPU by itself. In
such context, redundancy is primarily a
way to detect an anomaly and requires all redundant CPUs being active and a
complex “voting” algorithm to establish the role of CPU and its priorities in
taking safety decisions, e.g., activating brakes.
Analog backup : In
an increasingly digital environment , maintaining or reintroducing some basic
analog control is another security solution. For example, one function may be
supported by three or more redundant electronic control systems and a
mechanical one. This last-recovery approach that is non-hackable is being introduced in automotive for
safety-critical systems only on the drive-by-wire solutions to maintain basic braking/
turning ability even on power shutdown. Specifically, indirect electronically actuated
steering systems have a backup mechanical drive for the steering wheel. Even in
the remote case if a hacker somehow manages to take control of all the ECUs, he
or she will never be able to take control of the direct mechanical drive. This
implementation requires that the analog backup system has the final authority to overwrite the digital unit
: Hardware security systems are similar to the physical protection systems on a car, like the
engine firewall, seatbelts, and airbags. These are present to protect the
operating components from accidental or intentional damage. There is a wide range of hardware
security building blocks available from the computer security industry that can
help secure the buses and ECUs. These may include:
? Secure boot and software attestation functions: By checking digital
signatures and product keys this can detect tampering with critical operating
system and boot loaders. Before the invalid files can infect or attack the
system they are blocked from running ,giving an ECU its trust foundation when
? Tamper protection: Encryption
keys, account credentials, intellectual
property, and other valuable information are encrypted at compile time
and then decrypted only during a small execution window, protecting the
information from being monitored for
tampering attempts and from reverse engineering.
? Device identity directly on the
device: The unique identity of every device enables
manufacturers prevent unapproved devices from accessing the
manufacturer’s systems or network. Technologies such as Intel EPID – Enhanced
Privacy ID, which may be built into processors from Intel and others, also
protects anonymity by allowing devices to be verified as part of a group
instead of by their unique identity.
? Trusted execution technology(trusted
processor module): Unique identifier is created using cryptographic
techniques for each approved component that enables an accurate comparison of
the elements of a startup environment against a known valid source and
arresting the launch of code that does not match.
? Active memory protection: This
reduces code vulnerabilities by embedding pointer checking functionality
into hardware. It prevents buffer overflow conditions that may be exploited by
: It is sometimes impossible or difficult to add hardware security
capabilities to some of them, so co-operating processors and software-based
security are also needed. Ssoftware technologies and Architectural techniques that can defend the vehicle include:
? Secure boot: It works with the hardware
to ensure that the loaded software components loaded are valid to
provide a root of trust for the rest of the system.
? Authentication: Authentication by a
physical key for unlocking the vehicle doors and starting the engine is being
augmented by software and is no longer ,
as cars offer personalized services across multiple functions and profiles. Passwords,
electronic keys, and biometrics need to be managed and authorized to access
personal information, such as telemetry, locations, identity, and financial
transactions. Similarly, the various ECUs in a vehicle need to authenticate
communication to prevent an attacker from faking any messages or commands.
? Partitioned operating systems: A
commonly used hardware and software combination that isolates different functions or processes, such as externally
facing functions from those that drive the vehicle, reducing the complexity of
consolidating multiple systems onto a single ECU. Techniques, including software
containers and virtualization, make it
possible to update or replace individual functions without affecting overall
operation, or mirror functions for redundancy and fast fail-over.
? Message and device authentication:
It verifies that communications are coming from an approved source and
protects authentications from being spoofed or recorded and replayed.
? Enforcement of predictably holistic behavior of all systems: This Restricts
network communications to predefined normal behavior and constrains abnormal
types of messages so that they do not
impair the vehicle’s functions.
? Remote monitoring of vehicle
activity: This Includes appropriate privacy constraints to detect
anomalous behavior and misbehaving vehicles and filter out and remove malware.
? Over-the-air updates: This is used for
firmware and software (FOTA and SOTA) updates and works well for
smartphones and other business electronics. With safety precautions and appropriate
user controls, these can be vital to get systems updated quickly when a vulnerability is discovered.
? Credential management: Security of credentials is critical to
data privacy. The online components of vehicle, owner, and driver
authentication, providing easy and secure management of user profiles and
account information, federated identities, and associated cryptographic keys
All hacking is not meant
for malicious purposes. Sometimes things are hacked by people toto suit their
preferences or improve what they are working on. For example: In the case of an
automobile, gaining access and modifying the ECU can allow your car to cover
more miles per gallon. It can also help raise the horsepower of your engine. This
can be done by changing the oxygen and carbon dioxide input and output levels
of engine managed by ECU.
Another legal use for exploiting the system is to collect information about the driver like
average driving speed, radio station usage, GPS locations, and use these information or even sell them to
insurance companies. Insurance companies would benefit greatly from this
because they can adjust a rate in real time according to your driving habits.