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Connected cars must gear up for cyber security

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Driverless cars may be a thing of the future, but connected cars aren’t, so the entire automotive information security ecosystem has to be locked down, says PAUL WILLIAMS, Fortinet country manager for SADC.

Driverless cars, now being tested on public roads in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland, may be a futuristic dream in South Africa. But connected cars with inbuilt intelligence, and digitally-enabled public transport, are already here; presenting multiple potential security risks to motorists, manufacturers and automotive partners.

On the road to the intelligent driverless car of the future, we are already connecting vehicles and equipping them with a range of intelligent features. These connected, intelligent systems gather potentially sensitive information and communicate it with a control or command centre. Point of sale information, entertainment and online services delivered within the vehicle have to be secured. As we advance toward fully autonomous vehicles, controls including steering, braking, engine management and navigation will depend on a fully secure ecosystem supported by a reliable 3G/4G/5G and Carrier Wi-Fi connection, to function safely.

Effectively securing this ecosystem will depend on close collaboration between vehicle manufacturers, application developers, service providers and carriers. In South Africa, achieving self-driving cars will also depend on expanded Mobile or Wireless coverage across towns, cities and the country. Efforts are already being made internationally for automotive, IT and security stakeholders to work together more closely to ensure a fully secure environment for self-driving and connected cars, but their efforts will have to intensify as the pace of smart car development picks up.

Incorporating more and more technology into a vehicle, whether for improving the customer’s driving experience or enhancing the vehicle’s performance, must be balanced with the management of their potential threats and risks.  Ensuring that appropriate and effective security technologies are implemented within these systems must be a mandatory objective, even if it’s not (yet) a regulatory requirement.

Additionally, a growing problem with many IoT devices is that they use common communications programs that have no security built into them at all. As a direct result, an alarming number of IoT devices to date have been highly insecure.  We need to achieve better for autonomous cars than what is the current IoT benchmark today.

At the same time, manufacturers must work with their different technology and communications suppliers, across all of the territories where their vehicles are sold, to ensure that any network connections to the vehicles are appropriately hardened.

Automotive security can be addressed as three distinct domains that may make use of similar techniques in some instances, and require novel treatments in others.

  1. Intra-vehicle communications. Smart vehicles will have several distinct on-board systems, such as vehicle controls systems, entertainment systems, passenger networking, and even third-party systems loaded on-demand by owners.  To a certain extent, these systems will need to engage in “cross-talk” to bring new services to life, but this cross-talk needs to be closely monitored and managed by systems such as firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) that can distinguish between legitimate and normal communications and illicit activity in the car’s area network.
  2. External communications. Many, if not all on-board systems will have reasons to communicate to Internet-based services: for manufacturer maintenance, for software updates, for passenger Internet access, for travel and driving instructions, for service requests, to purchase items or services, or to backup data. External communications will very likely be both “push” and “pull” – they may be initiated either from inside the vehicle, or to the vehicle from a manufacturer or the Internet. This also means that traffic to and from the vehicle will need to be inspected and managed for threats and illicit, defective, or unauthorized communications using firewalls and IPS-like capabilities.
  3. Next, the connectivity infrastructure used by a vehicle will likely be based on well-established cellular networks, such as 3G/4G/5G and Carrier Wi-Fi data services, but with a twist.  While these wireless services already provide connectivity to billions of smart phones and other devices around the world today, they also suffer from inconsistent security.  Smart, driver-assisted, or even driverless vehicles will raise the stakes significantly. A directed attack on or through the “connected” network could trigger significant, safety-critical failures on literally thousands of moving vehicles at the same time.  Securing “the connected” networks providing critical vehicle communication will require a thorough review in light of such potential catastrophe.
  4. Finally, high-assurance identity and access control systems suitable and designed for machines, not people, will need to be incorporated such that: cars can authenticate incoming connections to critical systems, and internet-based services can positively and irrefutably authenticate cars and the information they log to the cloud, or transaction requests they may perform on behalf of owners – such as service requests or transactions to buy fuel or pay tolls.

Unless efforts are stepped up to secure the entire automotive environment, Gartner’s vision of driverless vehicles representing approximately 25 percent of the passenger vehicle population in use in mature markets by 2030 will be fraught with new risks.

From a hacker’s perspective, connected and driverless cars will represent yet another opportunity to wreak havoc by remotely accessing a vehicle and compromising one of its onboard systems, resulting in a range of risks from privacy and commercial data theft, to actual physical risks to people and property.

Here are some attacks that are likely to be targeted at highly connected and autonomous cars:

Privilege escalation and system interdependencies: not all systems and in-car networks will be created the same.  Attackers will seek vulnerabilities is lesser-defended services, such as entertainment systems, and try to “leap” across intra-car networks to more sensitive systems through the integrated car communications systems.  For instance, a limited amount of communication is typically allowed between an engine management system and an entertainment system to display alerts (“Engine fault!” or “Cruise Control is Active”) that can potentially be exploited.

System stability and predictability:  Conventional, legacy car systems were self contained, and usually came from a single manufacturer.  As new autonomous cars are developed, they will very likely need to include software provided by a variety of vendors – including open source software.  Information technology (IT), unlike industrial controls systems such as legacy car systems, are not known for predictability.  IT systems, in fact, tend to fail in unpredictable manners.  This may be tolerable if it is just a matter of a web site going down until a server re-boots. It is less acceptable in the event of a guidance systems being degraded even slightly when an adjacent entertainment or in-car Wi-Fi systems crashes or hangs.

Also expect to see known threats be adapted to this new target, expanding from common Internet platforms like laptops and smart phones an IoT device like an autonomous car.  For instance:

Botnet Attack: The Botnet “robot” attack is on the increase to an extent of the endpoint is now becoming the victim, without them realizing the attack at first. This attack can be targeted to a single endpoint or a handful of machines, network and endpoints simultaneously, depending the severity of the attack. The infection takes place normally through malware, with a specific Trojan viruses which allows the cybercriminal to start controlling the environment. The answer is to ensure an Application control function, Botnet detection with IP Reputation and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) system is in place to monitor and defend against such attacks. If the driverless car is receiving email type messages or the same type of format, nothing stops this way of communication being compromise.

Ransomware: Ransomware is certainly on the rise on PCs and mobile phones. But driverless cars represent an almost ideal target. Imagine the following scenario: a hacker uses the in-car display to inform the driver that his car has been immobilized and that a ransom must be paid to restore the vehicle to normal operation. While a laptop or tablet may be restored relatively easily with potentially no damage, assuming backups are available, a car is a very different story. The owner may be far from home (the ransomware could be programmed to only launch when the car is a predetermined distance from its home base.) Naturally, few dealerships would be familiar with resolving this sort of problem, and specialist help would most likely be required to reset affected components. The cost of such a ransom is expected to be very high, and will likely take time. In the meantime, the vehicle may have to be towed. So the question is, what is the amount of the ransom demand that we expect to see? Estimates are that it is likely to be significantly higher than for traditional computer ransomware, but probably less than any related repair costs so that the car owner is tempted to pay.

Spyware: Perhaps a more attractive target for hackers is collecting data about you through your car. Driverless cars collect massive amounts of data, and know a lot about you – including your favourite destinations, your travel routes, where you live, how and where you buy things, and even the people you travel with. Imagine a hacker, knowing that you’re travelling far from home, sells that information to a criminal gang who then breaks into your home, or uses your online credentials to empty your bank account.

That last risk exists because your driverless and connected vehicle is likely to become a gateway for any number of electronic transactions, such as automatic payment of your daily morning coffee, or parking charges, or even repairs.  With sensitive information stored in the car, it becomes another attack vector to obtain your personal information. And with RFIDs and Near Field Communications (NFC) becoming commonplace in payment cards, accessing their details through your car would be another way to capture data about you and your passengers.

And last but not least, there are legal and authenticity issues. Can we consider the location data of the car as authentic? That is, if your car reports you opened it, entered it, and travelled to a particular location at a certain time of the day, can we really assume everything happened as recorded? Will such data hold up in court? Or can this sort of data be manipulated? This is an issue that will need to be addressed.  Similarly, if cars contain software from several different providers, and spends the day moving from one network to another, who is accountable or liable for a security breech and resulting losses or damage?  Was it a software flaw? Was it negligent network management?  Was it on-board user-error or lack of training?

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Cars

Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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