– By Jeff Davis, Senior Director of IVY Ecosystems Business Development of BlackBerry –
Around the world, the rules of transportation are being rewritten by technology, with the development of electric vehicles to lower emissions, smart features to improve safety, and automated self-driving cars to take us into the future. Smart, connected vehicles are pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible for car innovation.
Cars have come a long way since Henry Ford created the Model T – a simple, affordable car that put the world on wheels. In 1908, it was the perfect solution to the growing need to move a relatively small number of people across the vast distances of early 20th century America.
As roads and highways grew to meet the demand for mobility, the car changed our daily lives, enabling more freedom for workers, better access to agricultural goods and connection between towns and cities. Many improvements came through a mix of innovation, market forces and planning.
However, when the advances were not well planned, it led to urban sprawl, excessive CO2 emissions and unequal access to transportation. Consumers are now looking to policy makers and vehicle manufacturers and demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles, a reduction in traffic and fewer accidents.
Automakers, innovators, and planners are responding in turn. Although Australia lags behind with electric vehicles (EVs) comprising only one per cent of local car sales, it’s expected that EVs will make up one-third of new cars sold globally by 2030, according to new analysis by Deloitte.
While EVs and autonomous vehicles are in our future, there are already many “smart” features in the cars on our roads today. Whether it’s entertainment systems like Apple or Android car play, or safety features such as lane keep assist, reverse cameras and blind spot sensors, they are designed to improve the overall driver experience. However, these smart features are also potential vulnerabilities.
Interoperability as a challenge to security
Connected transportation technology will increasingly require effective cybersecurity. As the software in a car grows, so too does the potential cyber attack surface. Connected vehicles, which can contain over 100 independently developed components, are difficult to secure due to the multiple vendors involved in their assembly. The complex automotive supply chain makes enforcing common cybersecurity criteria extremely challenging.
Connected vehicles are susceptible to cyber-attacks ranging from simple data theft to highly advanced system hijacking. Vehicles could be compromised through a paired smartphone, exposing personal data and vehicle operating systems. Hijacking electronic control units can disrupt braking, steering and engine operation. Any of these attacks would have serious consequences for both passengers and pedestrians.
Securing vehicles from cyber threats becomes increasingly difficult with every additional connection, electronic component, and software-driven system. The industry can’t make the same mistakes technology and software industries made in the past. It will not be acceptable to ship autonomous vehicle software riddled with vulnerabilities, requiring constant updates and layers of third-party security tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other defences. Until effective cybersecurity protocols and procedures are incorporated into the design and manufacture of vehicles and their components, modern automobiles are effectively insecure networks.
Cybercriminals will shift gears in connected vehicles
The transition from human-controlled to computer-controlled vehicles requires full cooperation between government, industry, and motoring groups. Autonomous vehicles are still a while away from becoming ubiquitous; however, they promise safer roads, reduced accidents, and an efficient road network.
In the near term, smart features represent a paradigm shift in transportation, opening exciting possibilities and optimising driver and passenger experience. However, it’s not their features that make them valuable – it’s their connectivity. The upside is that the terabytes of data generated in daily operations can be analysed and applied on a larger scale to make smart cities safer and more efficient.
The downside is significant cybersecurity risk that can’t be overlooked. The average vehicle coming off the line today has more lines of code than most fighter jets. Cars are connected, working off the cloud and segmented into make, model and year specific architectures.
We cannot predict all the ways in which cyber-criminals will attack connected vehicles, but we can predict that privacy will continue to be at the centre. Policy makers need to ensure the system governing the next generation of transportation protects the lives and the privacy of the people it serves. The UN has already created cybersecurity guidelines for automakers, laying the groundwork for increased vehicle security. Australia needs to follow suit to protect the privacy and security of its citizens.
The way forward: Deepening security with machine learning
Data and context will be critical to effectively securing autonomous and connected vehicles. Fortunately, vast amounts of data are generated from vehicle logs, network sensors and endpoint agents, as well as from distributed directory and human resource systems that indicate which user activities are permissible and which are not. Collectively, this mass of data can provide the contextual clues to identify and reduce threats.
This is the kind of environment in which machine learning (ML) excels. By acquiring a broad understanding of the activity surrounding the assets under their control, ML-driven solutions make it possible for analysts to discover the relationship between events over time and across disparate hosts, users, and networks. Properly applied, ML can provide the contextual information to reduce the risks of a breach, and significantly decrease the potential cost of an attack.
We all depend on vehicles and with the amount of time we spend in transit, there is a real need for new ideas and innovative solutions like autonomous driving. The application of ML will enhance security and safety outcomes to improve and protect our future.
It is imperative that professionals across the mobility sector understand the capabilities and limitations ML, and what an appropriate secure smart vehicle solution looks like.
Looking to the future in Australia, transport ministers are preparing for innovative transport technologies as a strategic priority. The Office of Future Transport Technology is coordinating work to prepare for the safe, legal deployment of connected and automated vehicles. Multi-year trials have been underway in states and territories including autonomous vehicles, monitoring systems and associated technology and frameworks. In all of this, fundamental security measures must be prioritised in parallel. Only then can we put autonomous vehicles on the roadmap to mass deployment.