When car hacking has become a scaring reality

Pierluigi Paganini August 24, 2015

Security experts have no doubt about the evolution of the car hacking, we are just at the beginning and we need improve cyber security urgently.

The last weeks were very interesting for the security experts interested in the cyber security of modern connected cars. People is even more curious about the car hacking following the news about hacks of vehicles from several automakers.

Cars are becoming more high-tech, there is no doubt about it, and the problem is that more cars will become high-tech the more they will be exposed to cyber attacks.

Think about it, just years ago cars didn’t have any special technology, so for automakers security issues are something very recent and resulting from the massive introduction of technology in their vehicles. Basically, they don’t have many experience yet in cyber security and car hacking.

A demonstration of this inexperience, security-wise, is that cars nowadays have sensors and controllers that require a connection to the Internet (using SIM cards), but these connections aren’t protected neither the data in transit are properly secured from prying eyes.

To worse the situation the numerous vulnerabilities still present in the software running on the components of modern connected cars, these vulnerabilities in some cases aren’t easy to patch, and can force automakers to recall vehicles (like Fiat Chrysler has done with his models).

Other automakers, in order to prevent car hacking, are looking with increasing interest to the bounty programs. Tesla launched a bug bounty program paying around $10.000 per vulnerability, embracing the security community and improving its vehicles.

Tesla represents a model to follow for many other automakers that in many cases are more interested in hiding the flaws in their connected cars.

I will go in the detail of the car hacking, you can find a lot of interesting post in SecurityAffairs on the topic, but I desire to remark the dangers for car owners and the security risks of a cyber attack.

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Automakers must adopt stringent security standards that could help them to design secure systems. This is principle behind the initiative “iamthecavalry.org,” at the annual DEF CON Security Conference, I Am The Cavalry published a Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Framework (PDF download) and calls for Automotive Industry adoption. Media outlets from across the US and Europe praised the effort and joined in calling for automakers and security researchers to work together to ensure a safe future.

Safety by Design

Do you have a published attestation of your Secure Software Development Lifecycle, summarizing your design, development, and adversarial resilience testing programs for your products and your supply chain?

The key Elements:

  • Standard Based
  • Supply Chain Rigor
  • Reduction of Elective Attack Surface & Complexity
  • Independent, Adversarial Resilience Testing

Third Party Collaboration

Do you have a published Coordinated Disclosure policy inviting the assistance of third-party researchers acting in good faith?

The key Elements:

  • Standard Based
  • Positive Incentives
  • Known Interfaces

Evidence Capture

Do your vehicle systems provide tamper evident, forensically-sound logging and evidence capture to facilitate safety investigations?

The key Elements:

  • Logging and Legal Standards
  • Improve effectiveness of NHTSA
  • Privacy Sensitivity

Security Updates

Can your vehicles be securely updated in a prompt and agile manner?

The key Elements:

  • Secure Updating System
  • Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Robust Notification/Communication

Segmentation and Isolation

Do you have a published attestation of the physical and logical isolation measures you have implemented to separate critical systems from non-critical systems?

The key Elements:

  • “Air Gaps”
  • System Integrity/Recovery
  • Enhanced Assurance

It will be important to apply these concepts to make car technology more secure, since it is becoming easier and easier to exploit cars vulnerabilities, especially after researchers release the notes about their research making them available to the world, making even a script kid a dangerous potential attacker.

About the Author Elsio Pinto

Elsio Pinto is at the moment the Lead Mcafee Security Engineer at Swiss Re, but he also as knowledge in the areas of malware research, forensics, ethical hacking. He had previous experiences in major institutions being the European Parliament one of them. He is a security enthusiast and tries his best to pass his knowledge. He also owns his own blog http://high54security.blogspot.com/

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – car hacking, connected cars)

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