Cisco released 4CAN hardware tool to find flaws in automotive computers

Pierluigi Paganini August 24, 2019

Cisco has released a hardware tool, called 4CAN, developed to help researchers to discover vulnerabilities in automotive systems. 

Computer systems in modern vehicles are very complex, they contain a huge quantity of devices and units that exchange a lot of data in real-time.

These components communicate via the vehicle’s network, dubbed Controller Area Network (CAN). Modern cars have multiple CAN buses combined with a gateway.

These components run software that could be potentially affected by security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by threat actors for several malicious purposes, from sabotage to surveillance.

Cisco has released a new hardware open-source tool called 4CAN that aims to help the automotive industry in security vehicles.


Researchers could use 4CAN to test their on-board computers for potential security flaws, according to the company it is very easy to use. Vehicles analyzed by Cisco’s researchers have 4 CAN buses all connected to the same gateway.

“A typical vehicle setup has multiple CAN buses combined with a gateway to arbitrate access between the CAN buses. This gateway acts as a firewall and can check CAN IDs to determine if the message should be allowed to traverse CAN buses. In this way, critical ECUs can be isolated from non-critical ECUs.” reads the post published by Cisco Talos.

Cisco explained that 4CAN has been designed to achieve the following goals:

  • Validating communication policy for intra-CAN bus communication.
  • Fuzzing (sending randomized payloads) to components to identify vulnerabilities.
  • Exploring the CAN commands used to control/interact with the vehicle.
  • Simplify our testbench setup to keep everything organized and in sync.

The 4CAN project is loosely based on the IndustrialBerry QUAD CAN BUS adapter for Raspberry CanBerry

“Using 4CAN, the test bench setup is vastly simplified. With a single Raspberry Pi, we can simultaneously test four CAN channels, and since the 4CAN exposes the entire 40-pin GPIO header, we can remotely control the test vehicle,” Cisco continues. 

The 4CAN tool is available on GitHub, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – 4CAN, hacking)

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