AUTO INDUSTRY NEWS

NHTSA ramps up research on vehicle cyber security

NHTSA ramps up research on vehicle cyber security image

Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Manufacturer press | posted August 04, 2015 16:28

Electronic Systems Safety Research to check vehicle cyber attack vulnerabilty

Following a demonstration by hackers on a car's vulnerabilty to cyber attacks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has increased its efforts on researching ways to counter-attack hacking in modern cars. The research also covers a vehicle's electronic reliability and cyber security.

As early as 2012, NHTSA's Electronic Systems Safety Research (ESSR) team has been checking safety, security, and reliability of electronic vehicle systems. Under ESSR, an Electronics Comittee has been established and are responsible for tackling issues related to vehicle electronics. The government agency has modified its organizational structure, developed partnerships and begun research. NHTSA has also considered legislative changes and additions and has encouraged members of the industry to take steps to help improve vehicle cyber security.

NHTSA says cybersecurity takes on an even more important role nowadays. Systems and components that govern safety must be protected from malicious attacks, unauthorized access, damage, or anything else that might interfere with safety functions.

NHTSA is currently taking what's called a layered approach. The agency says that all electronic points of entry in a car are susceptible to risk. This includes diagnostic ports, in-car entertainment systems and infotainment systems with internet connectivity. The agency is coming up with ways to prevent it from happening, as well as ways to counter the hack when the first layer of security is breached.

In its layered approach, NHTSA has come up with four main areas of cybersecurity. First is Protective or Preventive measures and techniques. It serves as a first line of defense for a vehicle's electrical system. It implements hardware and software solutions that lower the likelihood of a successful hack and diminish the potential impact of a successful hack. The second main area is Real-Time Intrusion Detection Measures which continually monitor signatures of potential intrusions in the electronic system architecture. Third is Real-Time Response Methods. These measures lessen the potential adverse effects of a successful hack, preserving the driver's ability to control the vehicle. Lastly, there's Assessment of Solutions which involves methods such as information sharing and analysis of a hack by affected parties and a development for a fix.

NHTSA is currently working with the US Congress, manufacturers, suppliers and the general public for research, legistations and cooperation.