Security for Connected & Self-Driving Cars

We are looking through the lens of cybersecruity and visualizing an “optically secure” high-speed wireless network of connected autonomous vehicles. In our vision, the automotive, computer and telecommunications industries are in a dynamic state of convergence in terms of system architecture for the Internet-of-cars. Although they’re yet to converge with a deeper tech-level of cybersecurity in their fundamental design.

Edge computing for cars is powerful but not enough. Secure communications require more edge-computation power. Connected and AI self-driving cars require much higher mission-critical levels of communications’ cybersecurity. Connected and self-driving vehicles are vulnerable and we have to address these flaws as soon as possible.

Photo Credit: Car & Driver Magazine

The “Internet-of-things” along with the advent of car electronic control units or microprocessors for “wireless connected cars” may perhaps be compared to a similar “convergence point” in the computer industry during the 1970 to 1979 period. I can see an applicable system topology metaphor: personal computers versus the Mainframe terminals? The answer was of course that users demand more computation power in their hands. I think we can extrapolate the same paradigm and realise that there is a need for more computation power in the car, at the edge. We need more local power.

McKinsey & Company “How the Convergence of Automotive and Tech will create a new Ecosystem” (1)

In terms of Cybersecurity, it’s necessary to speed up development of the connected car’s Cybersecurity architecture. At the moment, most cars rely on typical centralized Server network topologies, exposing unencrypted internet traffic to and from cars.

Source: Gyrfalcon Technology Inc.

We are faced with Cybersecurity problems in connected cars, despite the obvious powerful computer smarts of modern connected AI self-driving cars and even considering the remarkable computation power derived from over 100 individually networked micro-controllers or mini-computers on-a-chip, all part of the car’s brains. We may also find in “connected AI self-driving” automobiles, an estimated 100 million lines of car computer code are running at once.

Alas! despite of all these marvelous microcontrollers, not much power “at the AI car edge” is dedicated to wireless communications. Cybersecurity cannot be achieved at the edge by software alone, since the entire “Controller Area Network” of each car is unprotected. There is no encryption of data flowing in the CAN network of cars, which is the internal hardware network that connects all components in modern cars.

Source: Gyrfalcon Technolgy Inc.

The UK 2018 Automated and Electrical Vehicle Bill may one day require owners to install a specialized connected car Cybersecurity device, or else incur serious Insurance risk in cases of accidents for cars that operate with any level of self-driving AI software. An insurance liabiilty risk exists in the UK when, after an accident it is determined there were no secure firmware updates for the car’s operating AI software. It is hard to believe, but currently most if not all connected cars… cannot comply with this UK Law and physically due to the nature of their on-board electronics, cannot update AI firmware using secure and authenticated wireless transmissions.

United Kingdom 2018 Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018

Therefore, despite the technological marvels offered by connected cars today (like driving a collection of small computers on wheels) we are still not safe in terms of Cybersecurity since each one element of this automotive “Controller Area Network” does not have encryption and no way to update AI firmware wirelessly under secure authentication. There are no software “patches” possible to a hardware problem.

The automotive industry has NO shared security standards for different automotive vendors of electronic parts. Since each new part has no built-in credible Cybersecurity… once connected to the Internet, cars could become a hacking target. (2)

Hacking attacks on a “Connected Car” pose a significant risk due to the fact the car’s “Controller Area Network” manages in-car messages from different mission critical car systems, which many times may be life-critical to the driver and to the safety of other cars in proximity to the vehicle. The most vulnerable “attack vectors” are of course the user credentials & smartphone devices, which are also prone to hacking security keys and it’s best not to mention other attack vectors that pose significant “fleet” risk.

Copyright(c) Helios Energia Ltd 2022

As the car industry moves faster to develop better self-driving artificial intelligence vehicles, it becomes ever more critical to invent new solutions that offer robust network security from hacking intruders. This problem presents a significant risk for users and also for car manufacturers, as well as for the Insurance industry, since the costs of insurance coverage reflect implicit security risks in today’s digital economy.

In the future, we venture to forecast that it will not be possible to legally operate self-driving cars on UK motorways without a hardened on-board computational and secure wireless communications system for certification of the roadworthiness and reliability of such autonomous vehicles. Encrypted, secure and authenticated wireless frequent updates of critical self-driving firmware software, requires the installation of a retrofit tamper proof, new genertion “firewall” security communications device: AEBIS.

Our need for incorporating an entire new level of effective Cybersecurity to vehicle manufacturing is becoming increasingly demanding; in order to resolve the issues of safety and system integrity for more than 10 million connected cars on UK motorways alone. We respectfully and humbly posit, Connected Car Cybersecurity is a strategic imperative for the future of AI autonomous and connected vehicles to the Internet.

Floren Cabrera F. de Teresa, CEO


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