As we move to the age of the ‘connected car,’ more functions of vehicles and road infrastructure will be accessible digitally, presenting both new opportunities and security threats.
Unlike the financial world where credit cards, pin numbers and ATM machines are designed to operate in a closed system, the automotive industry faces particular technical challenges when it comes to security.
Today, some cars already contain more than 100 separate ‘control units’ – the embedded systems that control electronics in the car. This rapid increase in electronic complexity is potentially making them more vulnerable and giving rise to a new range of threats and hacks. Vehicles have already been successfully hacked through a physical connection into the dashboard, or via a car’s wireless tyre pressure sensors.
An increasing number of hacks are also taking place through the car’s in-car entertainment system. E.g. by introducing false code into MP3 files, hackers have been able to plant malicious input in the car. While that might not seem like a major threat, today’s cars are completely interconnected. A compromised MP3 player in a car can quickly affect other automotive components and cause more significant amounts of damage and danger to the driver.
Securing the connected car
In order to safeguard systems against attack, you need to have the right technology to provide proper encryption for secure data exchange and privacy protection. This process begins right from the point of manufacture, which is why electronic chip manufacturers like NXP need to continuously drive advances in this technology. We have been pioneering the connected car long before the term was used as part of ‘internet of things’ revolution. NXP is leader for crypto- and authentication solutions, and aims to bring banking-level security into the automotive world.
Preventing car theft is a key focus for NXP and we have been developing chips for immobilizers for the past decade. Immobilizers stop a car engine from starting if it’s been stolen and connected technologies such as GPS then allow us to track down the exact location of our stolen car. Furthermore, the detection of counterfeit parts is also important in increasing both security and driver safety. NXP creates the chips that can help car manufacturers and auto repair services to verify the authenticity of automotive parts.
While the potential threat of hacking does exist, security solutions that prevent network compromise and establish user identity have already been successfully applied in areas such as banking and e-identity, and are now available to the automotive market. The days of simply relying on an alarm and steering wheel lock to secure your car are definitely coming to an end. We’re now entering an exciting new era where the latest information security technologies are becoming integral to the automotive sector.
Additional information: To see a video of Lars talking about the challenges of the connected car Click here