Infineon throws its hat into the automotive security ring

October 21, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
When it comes to automotive electronics, Infineon is best known for its power devices. However, the company also is very active in sophisticated control logics and has significant expertise for security sensitive applications. EE Times Europe met Infineon’s Hans Adlkofer, Vice President of Automotive Systems, at the ELIV automotive electronics congress in Baden-Baden.

The recent headlines of hackers taking control over a car through wireless connections scared car drivers and designers the same way. But the technology to prevent such scenarios for the future is available, Adlkofer pointed out. “Security is a matter of the architecture. OEMs have tackle this problem”, he said. The vehicle in question – a Jeep Cherokee – did not even have a gateway to separate the infotainment system form the safety-relevant components. While it is pointless to speculate over the reasons the OEM in question omitted such a separating element, for the design of real-world security solutions it is always necessary to keep price and performance in mind, but there are solutions available. The TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a hardware security device typically associated to PCs and servers, can easily be implemented in an automotive environment, Adlkofer said.

Infineon’s Aurix processor architecture already has the necessary security circuitry on board, such as a cryptography coprocessor – in earlier versions the SHE (Secure Hardware Encryption) and now the HSM (Hardware Security Module). “This is not a simple hardware accelerator, but a separate entity”, he said. Currently these systems are used for example to prevent illegal manipulations of the engine characteristics, but they could be utilised just as well in data security applications. In this context the company can realise synergies from its Chip Card & Security Division which in earlier times constantly was Infineon’s problem child in terms of profitability. This has changed, Adlkofer said, the EBIT situation of this division as improved significantly. The synergies with automotive security however are “just at the beginning”.

In general Infineon believes it has the security technology for the automotive industry, Adlkofer said. “The OEMs now have to act quickly and adopt proven technology”, he added. While Infineon is not involved directly into the design activities of OEMs and tier ones, the company is performing consulting tasks. Based on its expertise in payment systems, chipcard security and automotive electronics, it can provide significant contributions to the security discussion. Since, for instance, today all the interfaces are distributed across the vehicle, it is necessary to scrutinise any and every interface to the outside world, including tire pressure monitoring systems, OBD, CD drives, USB interfaces, Bluetooth, LTE, WiFi and car keys, Adlkofer explained.