Cloud-based security platform: How to protect the connected car from hacker attacks

September 06, 2012 // By David Miller, Covisint
Connecting a vehicle to the internet offers OEMs, car owners and third-parties numerous new possibilities. At the same time, the necessary interfaces are gateways for unauthorized access. Common security features for machine-to-machine communication (Bluetooth, for instance) are not sufficient. Protecting electronic controls of the vehicle and its on-board modules as well as private data by means of a point-to-point security integration is complex and error-prone. Only a centralized network platform provided via the cloud can effectively protect the connected vehicle from attacks.

The demand for digital services in vehicles is continually rising. Gartner Research expects that as early as 2016, the availability of intelligent, network-based services for telematics and infotainment will play a decisive role in the purchasing process. Just like for all internet-based applications, security is key. In the case of a vehicle, this includes protection from manipulating and overcoming digitally controlled theft protection systems, but also the guarantee that access credentials used for internet-based services cannot be stolen by hackers. At the same time, the required security measures must be designed in a way that they don't distract or annoy vehicle owners. In this context, it does not matter whether the access is realized via mobile device or embedded systems (antenna-based).

The basis for integrating and protecting digital services is a secure ICT network platform which includes robust frameworks for connectivity, identity management and security. These security tools prevent unauthorized access to the vehicle’s IT and guarantee secure communication between OEMs, customers and service providers. In addition, they allow for secure, automated and user-friendly provisioning and de-provisioning of unique digital identities, which is especially important with regard to later changes in vehicle ownership. What’s more, an ideal network platform also enables easy and fast software updates for in-vehicle IT systems as well as secure access to cloud services. (Graphic 1)

Fig. 1.

Closing loopholes

The in-vehicle network of today’s cars only offers limited protection from unauthorized access. This is due to the heterogeneity of the applied systems and the great number of suppliers. For example, the on-board diagnosis interface is a gateway for unauthorized access to the digital controls of the vehicle electronics. Connecting the vehicle to the internet makes it easy for hackers to exploit these given vulnerabilities, no matter if the connection is realized via in-built devices or via wireless interfaces to mobile devices. Thus far, researchers have demonstrated multiple times how easy it can be for internet

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