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IT Education

Cybersecurity in the Automotive Industry

~13 minutes read

Table Of Contents

 Key Takeaways

  • Definition of Automotive Cybersecurity: Protection against an attack on technological resources, information systems, and car data. It means safeguarding information systems from illegitimate access or change.
  • What's next for the automotive cybersecurity market? This growth of the automotive cybersecurity market is in line with the increase in connected, autonomous vehicles. The rise in destructive cyber incidents flags for better protection measures and novel security approaches.

Introduction to Automotive Cybersecurity

Would you ever believe that it is so thrilling and sometimes frightening to wake up every day to fresh developments and innovations? Technology is supposed to ease our lives, but it also brings risks.

For instance, we may view past vehicles as just mechanical equipment for transportation. Most definitely, one cannot help but see current cars filled with technology connections and features as four-wheeled computers. But questions arise from this new technology convenience and streaming algorithms. And don't think about it only in terms of technology – of course, we all want to be sure that cars are safe to drive, our personal information is protected, and even that driverless cars are 100% safe.

The question is this: as cars get smarter through technology, does the likelihood of getting hurt from one also rise? It is very much so, and here is why.

Development of Automotive Technology and the Current State

There is an impressive reconstruction that is taking place within the automobile industry. The characteristics identified with modern automobiles include an internet connection and many communication capacities. This sophistication causes heavily software-based, network-oriented, and communication technologies in vehicles, hence the need for updated approaches.

The EU has announced that petrol or diesel-fueled vehicles will not be allowed on the road from 2035. The EU has also unveiled that autonomous driving is no longer distant in our life. According to the General Safety Regulation’s factsheet by the European Commission, all Cyber Security Management Systems have been made mandatory from July 2022 for the new type-designed vehicle by the EU, while it will become mandatory for all new vehicles from June 2024.

Let's look at the in-depth technological metamorphosis in the automotive industry and the new technologies that come with it.

1- Connected Cars

These vehicles communicate with other devices, and features including real-time navigation, traffic updates, remote diagnostics, and emergency calls are all part of a connected car. Connected cars ensure safe driving and smooth running for an advanced driving experience through smartphone integration.

2- Autonomous Vehicles

An autonomous vehicle is a self-driving car without any kind of human input needed for its movement. This is a vehicle that can go without human intervention through hardware and software that automatically controls its mechanisms.

These autonomous vehicles staging into our lives were through the development of technology, artificial intelligence technology, the idea of the Internet of Things, and engineering. They use advanced technologies through the technical infrastructure of the radar, lidar, odometry, GPS, and computer visions for object detections from outside, without the help of human operators.

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Yes, autonomous vehicles have their very own levels. They have six different levels from no automation to full automation. It is important to note that to date, we are still very far from having full autonomous (Level 5) vehicles on the road.

3- Driver Assistance Technologies

Driver assistance systems come in many forms and with varying depths of functionality but have the main aim of making driving safe and comfortable.

This, of course, helps avoid serious accidents and reduce the fatality rate through the deployment of advanced driver assistance technologies, including automatic emergency braking systems and lane-keeping systems.

The Importance of Automotive Cybersecurity

According to the 2023 Upstream Global Automotive Cybersecurity Report, automotive cybersecurity is becoming more important. As cars get more connected and rely on software, they can be updated throughout their lives. This allows for new revenue from on-demand services and better customer experiences driven by data.

2023 Upstream Global Automotive Cybersecurity Report showing cybersecurity problems are growing.

But, as more cars get connected, cybersecurity problems grow. OEMs and their supply chains need new ways to protect against more frequent and complex cyber attacks. Upstream's research shows that reported cyber incidents increased by over 50% from 2019 to 2023, with 295 incidents in 2023. Most of these attacks (95%) were done remotely, and 64% were by malicious hackers.

APIs are crucial for providing vehicle functions to drivers and businesses. As more features are delivered through APIs, cybersecurity risks rise. The cost of attacks has dropped, making it easier for attackers to launch them, which has led to a big increase in the number and impact of these attacks.

Automotive cybersecurity not only keeps vehicles safe but also protects the brand's reputation and ensures customer security.

What is Car Cybersecurity?

As the number of electronic components in vehicles is steadily increasing, there are more functions supported by electronic control units. In some cases, whole functions are entirely taken over by electronic systems, such as the Connected Cars or Autonomous Vehicles explained above.

Therefore, automotive cybersecurity can be conceptually defined as maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the technological resources of IT systems and the connected infrastructures of cars. At the same time, it also implies the prevention, detection, and reaction to any cyber-attacks and the protection of the sensitive data related to the driver and other connected car users.

Common Security Attacks on Automotive Systems

The 2023 Global Automotive Cybersecurity Report talks about the big security issues that cyber attacks bring to vehicles and the entire car industry. These attacks fall into two main types: remote and physical.

1- Remote Attacks:

Remote attacks use network connections like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular networks (3G, 4G, 5G) to hit many vehicles at once. Since 2010, these remote attacks have become more common than physical ones, making up 95% of all attacks in 2023. Most of these are long-range attacks.

Since 2010, these remote attacks have become more common than physical ones, making up 95% of all attacks in 2023.

Long-range attacks, especially those using APIs, take advantage of the way modern vehicles are built and connected.

The most common remote attack methods include:

  • API-Based Attacks: These go after the vehicle's APIs, giving remote access to its software and functions, which can then be misused.
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks: These attacks intercept and mess with the data flow in the vehicle's communication systems.
  • Ransomware Attacks: These involve putting harmful software on vehicle systems, locking them up, and demanding money to unlock them.

2- Physical Attacks:

These attacks need physical access and usually involve directly messing with the vehicle's hardware.

  • Attacks via the OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) Port: Hackers can plug into the vehicle's OBD port to get into the vehicle's control systems.
  • Direct Hardware Manipulations: These attacks mean physically changing or damaging the in-vehicle hardware.

Cyber attacks don't just steal sensitive data; they can also mess up business operations, lead to vehicle theft, system manipulation, and fraud. In 2023, the most common outcome was business disruptions, making up 42% of reported incidents. Fraud-related incidents also jumped, making up 20%.

In 2023, the most common outcome was business disruptions, making up 42% of reported incidents.

Examples of Cybersecurity Threats in the Automotive Industry

1- Security Vulnerabilities in Hyundai and Genesis Vehicles

Security vulnerabilities were discovered in the mobile applications of Hyundai and Genesis vehicles. Attackers could bypass the email verification process and access the vehicles remotely.

Cause:

These vulnerabilities stemmed from poor verification processes in the mobile applications, along with insufficient security measures during software development. Weak authentication measures were used for access to the applications.

Result:

Attackers could then access vehicles remotely by unlocking doors and starting the engine. These vulnerabilities seriously impacted the personal safety of vehicle owners and subjected their personal information to risk. Furthermore, unauthorized access to vehicles such as Hyundai and Genesis exposed the owners to security and privacy issues.

Preventive Measures:

  • Strong Authentication: A mobile application must use a strong multi-layered authentication mechanism. Email verification processes should use strong mechanisms.
  • Regular Updates: Software and applications should be kept up to date and continuously monitored for security vulnerabilities. Proactive measures must be taken against new threats.
  • Comprehensive Security Testing: Security testing must be done extensively when the application is being developed, and potential vulnerabilities must be identified. Independent security researchers should also continuously conduct these tests.
  • User Awareness: For security purposes, vehicle owners must be educated on the use of strong passwords and the importance of personalizing them. Passwords must also be updated regularly. Additionally, owners should be notified to be wary of suspicious emails, which must never be clicked on.

2- Honda’s Global Operations Hit by Cyber Attack

In June 2020, Honda faced a major cyber attack that hit its global operations hard. The attack used malware called Snake (Ekamet) ransomware, which spreads through networks and encrypts files. It got into Honda’s internal networks, locking up files on many systems and bringing operations to a stop.

Cause:

This security breach happened because of weaknesses in protecting the internal network. Attackers got past firewalls and accessed systems without permission. Honda's security policies and network monitoring weren't strong enough.

Result:

The attack disrupted Honda’s production facilities and other operations around the world. Some production lines stopped, and internal email and communication systems were affected. This led to big interruptions in Honda’s production and distribution, causing financial losses. It also put customer information and other sensitive company data at risk.

Preventive Measures:

  • Advanced Security Measures: Install stronger firewalls and monitoring systems. Regularly update security software and apply patches.
  • Employee Training: Teach employees about cyber security threats and how to prevent ransomware attacks.

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  • Data Backup: Set up regular data backups and store them in a secure, isolated place.
  • Penetration Testing: Regularly test the company’s networks and systems to find and fix potential vulnerabilities.

Challenges and Measures in Automotive Cybersecurity

Challenges & Potential Risks 

Challenges & Potential Risks of Automotive Cybersecurity

Based on what we've talked about in the automotive cybersecurity market, here are some potential risks:

  • Brute Force Attacks: Hackers try to break into vehicle systems by guessing passwords or codes, leading to theft or misuse.
  • Misuse of EV Charging Stations: Fraud or disruptions in service caused by remote tampering with the charging infrastructure.
  • Ransomware Attacks: Picture vehicle systems being taken over by ransomware, with hackers demanding money to give control back, causing financial and reputational damage.
  • Remote Keyless Entry Exploitation: Hackers can unlock and start vehicles by messing with key signals. It's like they have a magic key.
  • ECU Manipulation: This involves hacking into the Electronic Control Units that control important car functions, posing serious security and privacy risks.
  • API Vulnerabilities: Weak spots in the APIs used by connected cars can lead to big attacks, data breaches, and hackers taking control remotely.
  • Mobile App Exploitation: Security flaws in vehicle apps can let hackers access and control cars, leading to identity theft and privacy issues.
  • Bluetooth Security Flaws: Exploits in Bluetooth can give unauthorized access to parts of the vehicle, putting security at risk.
  • OTA Update Risks: Problems with over-the-air updates can cause widespread car issues and security breaches.
  • V2X Communication Risks: Weaknesses in Vehicle-to-Everything tech, which lets cars talk to their surroundings, can lead to major security problems.

To tackle these challenges, we need better security measures, constant monitoring, and user education.

Measures: Automotive Cyber Security Best Practices

Automotive Cyber Security Best Practices

With regard to our automotive cybersecurity risks, one needs to look into the measure to be taken into account to counterbalance the risks mentioned above.

So, this means secure coding and regular risk assessments.

This needs to be supported by secure coding standards following the best practices, and there should be embedded, sound auditing systems that help in the early identification of security flaws during coding.

Regular risk assessments should be undertaken to identify any potential risks, analyze their scope and impact, and mitigate the potential risks with set control measures.

Strong Authentication, Periodic Software Updates:

Integrate identification processes exhibiting strong authentication mechanisms, such as biometrics and multi-factor identification, to bar unauthorized access to vehicle systems.

Releasing software update patches at regular intervals to quickly fix potential security loopholes before criminals exploit such loopholes, thus raising the overall security level of an entire system.

Collaboration with security service providers and intrusion detection systems:

Collaborate with security solution providers in developing strong frameworks, knowledge, and platforms to ensure overall security throughout the automotive system. Setting up an intrusion-detection system that can proactively monitor vehicle network traffic and quickly detect any anomaly in activities or any intrusion in time to stop any form of cyber attack in its tracks.

Infusing Cybersecurity into the Lifecycle:

Cybersecurity should almost be close to the priority at the top of the list for the stages of completing the whole process of development of an automotive system. It should be integrated at each and every step of the system design, software development, testing, deployment, and maintenance process.

It would reduce vulnerabilities, create resilience, and identify the best possible security measures in case of critical situations.

Making Use of New Technologies and Training Employees:

Deploying new technologies, including blockchain, in the security aspect against cyber threats. For instance, blockchain allows seamless, secure transactions within the automotive ecosystem. Training enhances employee knowledge of digital security; in the context of automotive cyber security, they are stakeholders who are informed and understand the importance of automotive cyber security in order to avoid the cyber threat.

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Besides, these strategies can also be used to build systematic and strong defense frameworks against cyber threats. Protection of passengers would also become possible in this digital world.

Importance of Vehicle Cyber Security Standards

The automotive industry takes notice of the issue of cybersecurity. That is based on rapid digitalization and the level to which the industry is moving toward embracing technologies, all pointing to the aspect of vehicle connectivity. Therefore, it is imperative that automotive brands embrace recent standards in cybersecurity to guarantee safety and the integrity of vehicles.

ISO/SAE 21434 Standard:

This standard provides global guidelines for car cybersecurity. It covers everything from managing risks and production to operation, product development, maintenance, and even decommissioning. Basically, it makes sure that every stage of a vehicle’s life is secure.

WP.29 Regulations:

These regulations, adopted by the United Nations in 2020, focus on beefing up vehicle security from design to operation. They include steps for detecting and responding to incidents and ensuring secure software updates. The aim is to keep security high throughout the vehicle’s life.

European Union’s Approach:

In fact, the EU strongly believes in cooperative, connected, and automated mobility, backed up by projects like Horizon 2020. They further embrace vehicle cybersecurity with the introduction of the Cyber Resilience Act, ensuring that cybersecurity is a prerequisite in digital products and services throughout their lifecycle, protecting new cars from cyber threats.

This results in strong cybersecurity standards within the automotive sector, ensuring our vehicles are safe and secure in this connected world.

Conclusion

To be brief, security is the number one challenge for connected cars when it comes to safeguarding them from cyber threats. In the fight against the problem, the car market is developing advanced technologies, actively supported by experts in the area, together with accepting and establishing strong security standards. Importantly, cybersecurity has to be improved to make connected vehicles unceasingly safe.

Author
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Author
Cemil Bildirici
, Software Developer

As a code aficionado, I juggle with JavaScript, make Python dance, and occasionally hold deep, meaningful conversations with PHP. My mind doesn't just think outside the box, it sometimes forgets that the box even exists.

As a code aficionado, I juggle with JavaScript, make Python dance, and occasionally hold deep, meaningful conversations with PHP. My mind doesn't just think outside the box, it sometimes forgets that the box even exists.

Editor
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Editor
Aslihan Kilic
, Social Media & Content Manager

With an unwavering commitment to continuous learning and staying up-to-date with industry trends, I am always seeking new ways to push boundaries and make a difference. Passionate about social media management, I recognize the power of digital platforms in shaping brand perception and driving engagement.

With an unwavering commitment to continuous learning and staying up-to-date with industry trends, I am always seeking new ways to push boundaries and make a difference. Passionate about social media management, I recognize the power of digital platforms in shaping brand perception and driving engagement.

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