A former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently told the 2014 SAE Convergence conference in Detroit that automakers and federal regulators must address potential “acts of terrorism” using connected vehicles.
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“Strickland said the industry needs to be proactive rather than reactive regarding cybersecurity issues as more cars and trucks become connected with the Internet, one another and additional third parties,” writes Michael Wayland of The Detroit News.
“As more technologies, including wireless hotspots and engine control units/chips, are being added to cars and trucks, concerns over cybersecurity and data safety have grown. Many vehicles can contain 100 or so on-board ECUs, also known as powertrain control modules.”
It should be noted that Strickland’s comments were made nearly four months after the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers informed NHTSA that they were planning to launch a cybersecurity initiative for companies to voluntarily share best practices in an effort to help protect drivers and their personal information.
Indeed, as Strickland emphasizes, it is absolutely critical for the industry to collaborate on countermeasures before the threat matures.
“As we have larger and more connectivity across the fleet, there’s going to be more incentives (for hackers) to create more problems,” he explains. “Or the even scarier aspect, which you’re dealing with right now, are acts of terrorism.”
Ron Perez, Systems Security Fellow at the Rambus Cryptography Research division, says there is a growing realization within the automotive industry that cybersecurity is an issue that has to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
“Getting automotive companies to collaborate on security standards is probably one of the fastest ways to set priorities and make real progress towards the design of cyber-physical systems that are well protected on a hardware level,” Perez tells Rambus Press.
“Of course, it is important to realize that the concept of automotive security on a very basic level has been around for years. However, the scale and scope of vehicle security is rapidly evolving, as more and more systems go online, revealing new classes of vulnerabilities. Simply put, we are connecting systems that weren’t originally designed to be part of the IoT.”
According to Perez, adopting a hardware-first approach to security and implementing the necessary functionality on the SoC level is a critical element of modern and next-gen vehicular technology.
“Strong, hardware-based security and isolation mechanisms for automotive systems offer uncompromising protection against various forms of attack,” he adds.