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Cybersecurity and Autonomous Vehicles

By Charles Parker II

This is a fantastic age to live in. We have vehicles that notify us when another vehicle is near us, when we’re too close to the vehicle in front of us or the side of the road, when we are sliding inadvertently into the next lane, and log our activities. This is a massive step from the vehicles of 10- 15 years ago. The sensors installed within the vehicle offer cutting edge technology for the driver. These also have improved safety for the occupants along with others on the roadmap. Have pentested an AV, I can attest this is a delight.

While I sing the praise of the AVs, there are issues. This has potential threats to the AVs due to the platform, sensors, and OS. These are all new attack surfaces and vulnerabilities. If exploited, these provide an opportunity for disaster. The new threats come from various sources. These new machines, as they are heavily dependent on software, are open to remote attacks. If successful, modules could be compromised. Depending on which one is targeted and breached, there are varying levels of criticality. For instance, steering or brake ECUs are relatively serious.

Data is the new gold and oil. This is especially the case with vehicles. Each collects a mass amount of data from general operations and the sensors. The data may be used in multiple scenarios.

While sensors have improved vehicle operations and safety, there are potential issues here also. The sensors could be spoofed, providing false data to the vehicle and data processing. The fake data could provide a false set of data for the surroundings. This could lead the vehicle on the wrong path.

While this could provide for issues, there are preventive measures to the taken. The software may be hardened, making these more robust. Patching is also pertinent. This occurring regularly limits the attack surface. Encryption should be used with vehicles data and communication. This limits the weak points which are targets.

About the Author

Charles Parker, II has been working in the info sec field for over a decade, performing pen tests, vulnerability assessments, consulting with small- to medium-sized businesses to mitigate and remediate their issues, and preparing IT and info sec policies and procedures. Mr. Parker’s background includes work in the banking, medical, automotive, and staffing industries.


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