Triple protection against hackers – Cybersecurity for fully interconnected vehicles

It’s a horror scenario: Hackers cripple a manufacturer’s entire vehicle fleet through a cyberattack on its IT systems – with incalculable consequences for road safety. To prevent such situations from arising, IAV is working together with the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) in Hamburg and software service provider easycore GmbH from Erlangen on a new method for vehicle cyber security.

Fully interconnected vehicles are the prerequisite for autonomous driving. However, new forms of mobility and innovative vehicle concepts also place new demands on cybersecurity. From 2022, therefore, specific requirements of the UN Economic Commission for Europe will apply to the cybersecurity of vehicles. This is because the more complex IT systems become, the more opportunities there are for attacks: Every new online interface that is integrated into the vehicle opens up a potential gateway for hackers.

If attackers actually succeed in taking control of a vehicle, human lives could be at risk.

«If a website is hacked, then material damage occurs. But if a vehicle is attacked, personal injury is also possible. This is because IT security is closely linked to personnel safety»

Professor Falk Langer — Team Manager, Connected Systems Technology at IAV

With the research project launched by IAV in 2018, “SecVi: Security for Vehicular Information” launched by IAV in 2018, vehicles are to be able to detect and fend off attacks at an early stage, thus ensuring the safety of passengers.

Triple protection of interconnected vehicles

The research project focuses on intelligent procedures for controlling, monitoring and reconfiguring networks in vehicles, coordinated via an Automotive Cyber Defense Center. This is intended to raise cybersecurity to a new level. Together with easycore GmbH and HAW, IAV has developed a revolutionary concept that secures interconnected vehicles on three levels using the onion-skin principle. “The levels of the concept must interlock seamlessly to realize comprehensive monitoring and targeted incident response. This allows interconnected vehicles to be protected against cyber attacks in the best possible way,” adds Jochen Decker, Managing Director of easycore GmbH.

A firewall for the Controller Area Network (CAN) from easycore protects the vehicle and its control units as a whole. If irregularities occur, the rules of the CAN firewall are adapted so that harmful communication is blocked at an early stage. On the second level, HAW uses Software Defined Network (SDN), a new technology for vehicles. The vehicle network protects itself by means of intelligent modules. This is because the building blocks enable communication flows only if they comply with predefined network access control rules. These rules can be adapted over the runtime. Together with self-learning anomaly detection, attacks can be identified and prevented.

If an anomaly is detected, specific services or even ECUs that have a vulnerability can be disabled. Services that are absolutely necessary for the vehicle’s functionality are then shifted to other ECUs. Despite a restricted range of functions, safe operation can still be guaranteed. This is facilitated by the third level – IAV’s Automotive Cyber Defense Center (ACDC). The first two levels always transmit abnormalities to the ACDC.

«If a device reports anomalies and the ACDC detects an attack, the ACDC initiates countermeasures in the firewall or SDN and reconfigures the network.»

Professor Falk Langer — Team Manager Connected Systems Technology at IAV

The ACDC collects information from the entire vehicle fleet. This makes it possible, on the one hand, to detect hidden attacks by correlating the fleet data and, on the other hand, to roll out preventive measures to protect the vehicles at an early stage.

The article was published in automotion 01/2021, the automotive engineering magazine of IAV. Here you can order the automotion free of charge.

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