John Giordani has extensive experience in cybersecurity and information assurance. He is Chief Information Security Officer at NCHENG LLP.
The innovation of modern cars, such as autonomous vehicles, telematics and electric vehicle supply management that have been integrated with information technology, has made things safer. Still, they possess the danger of becoming compromised by attackers. For instance, the driver of the vehicle could suffer from privacy intrusion due to cyberattacks. Therefore, manufacturers and drivers need to develop strategies for mitigating the dangers associated with technology in vehicles after identifying security concerns that create holes for hackers. Let’s identify the cyberattack threats posed to automated vehicles, manufacturers and drivers and develop strategies for protecting, solving or preventing the attacks.
The advancement of vehicle technology to autonomous vehicles (AVs) thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) has helped manufacturers develop self-driving cars with advanced communications. The technology has also increased fuel efficiency by using various telematics technologies that allow AVs to travel at high speeds because of intelligence and quick sensors. Autonomous vehicles can also track different lane markings to prevent accidents.
A modern car is configured with about 100 million lines of code that the manufacturer has stored in an electronic control unit (ECU). It manages and controls all car parts, from brakes and cameras to sensors and airbags. The electronic control unit communicates properly and analyzes the road using a controller area network (CAN) connected or spliced to external nodes. Hackers can gain access to the car through USB, Bluetooth channels, navigation consoles, wireless and cellular signals or other monitoring systems. The new challenges posed by modern cars are a top concern, since a large amount of data is collected by the car when it is moving using sensors, GPS, radars, cameras and the overall system.
Threats Associated With Sensors
Autonomous vehicles use sensors to determine the condition of the environment because they do not have drivers to control them. The sensors used are the radar system, light detection and ranging (lidar), GPS, sonar, visual sensors, ultrasonic sensors and trunk latch sensors. These sensors allow the autonomous vehicle to avoid collisions, achieve proper navigation, recognize pedestrians or obstacles and perceive the environment. The use of the sensors is maximized, and if they are maliciously controlled or blinded, the vehicle could cause a catastrophic accident.
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For example, attackers could harm the GPS in the car, which is an indispensable sensor. Autonomous vehicles use GPS to identify the shortest route by analyzing a map, but the GPS system creates vulnerabilities in autonomous cars that attackers can exploit. Hackers can conduct two kinds of attacks: spoofing and jamming. Spoofing is when fabricated signals outwit the GPS receiver, and as a result, the vehicle can be dragged in the wrong direction. Jamming involves using much stronger signals simultaneously to ensure that the AV does not receive GPS signals. This type of attack is easier to notice since the AV changes its direction abruptly.
Lidar can also be attacked since it is always active. Lidar is used to recognize lanes, car signals, sense obstacles and determine the distances of obstacles on the roadways. The attacker can use a transceiver to compromise the lidar by sending spurious signals that contain fake obstacles along car paths.
Hackers can also launch attacks on all of the cameras used in obstacle detection, lane detection and sign recognition. If these cameras are attacked, they can lose their abilities and cause accidents on the road. The camera can be blinded through a laser light on the LED of the camera directly, which would cause severe damage to the camera.
There are some strategies to counter the vulnerabilities of GPS. When a spurious signal is detected in the satellite, the system should identify it as a potential attack. The counterfeit signal can be detected using a signal strength detector, clock information and time intervals. Also, antennae could be used to determine the signal direction of arrival to avoid the spoofing signal. Another strategy includes using a cryptographic technique where an encrypted GPS code is used to determine whether there is a spoofing signal. An authentication strategy could also be used to determine whether the received signal is authentic.
The lidar system can be protected from attacks by employing defense mechanisms such as controlling how it receives and emits its signals. The attacker’s laser could be blocked by reducing the receiving angle and only receiving the signal from a specific, predefined angle. In addition, the receiving time of lidar sensors should be reduced to ensure that attackers do not have a conducive probing range.
Cameras used in autonomous vehicles have some vulnerabilities because of their optical characteristics, making them difficult to fully secure. Some possible countermeasures include photochromic lenses, redundancy and near-infrared cutoff filters that could provide adequate protection.
There are also in-vehicle vulnerabilities associated with access control systems, including keyless entry systems, voice-controlled systems and vehicle immobilizers. The keyless entry system prevents an unauthorized person from gaining access to the vehicle because an encryption method of generating radio frequency (RF) is used to send authentication data. The voice recognition system is integrated into the vehicle to record and receive instructions from the passengers. The vehicle immobilizer prevents the engine of the vehicle from starting unless the correct key fob is used. Defense strategies that could be implemented include ensuring that passengers lock the doors before leaving, blocking new signal sources and using improved authentication measures and hidden cameras to ensure that controls come from live speakers.
Modern cars utilize the most current technology, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Sensors, lidar, GPS, cameras and in-vehicle systems are vulnerable to attacks, and proper mitigation strategies should be put in place, like the use of radio frequency authentication to access the vehicle. Therefore, the manufacturer should ensure that the car has adequate mechanisms to reduce cyberattacks.