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Keeping Automotive ahead of the curve through ISO/SAE 21434 compliance


23rd June - Valencia.

In a report by Trend Micro, a world leader in Cybersecurity, they describe multiple scenarios in which car drivers could encounter attacks that threaten the safety of themselves and others. With more than 125 million passenger cars with embedded connectivity forecast to ship worldwide between 2018 and 2022, progress continues to advance towards fully autonomous vehicles. This advancement will create a complex ecosystem comprising cloud, IoT, 5G and other key technologies. It also features an enormous attack surface comprising potentially millions of endpoints and end users.

As the industry develops, there will be multiple opportunities for monetization and sabotage for cybercriminals, hacktivists, terrorists, nation states, insiders and even unscrupulous operators, the report warns. Of all 29 attack vectors studied, the overall risk of successful cyber-attacks was assessed as Medium. However, as SaaS applications become embedded in the Electrical/Electronics (E/E) architecture of vehicles and cybercriminals create new monetization strategies, an evolution in attacks will lead to higher risk threats.

According to ISO In various experiments to test the robustness of cybersecurity systems in vehicles, “white hat hackers” – i.e. computer security experts who deliberately hack into systems to test and assess their security – have demonstrated that it is possible to remotely control cars. For example, as far back as 2015, such hackers demonstrated that they could take control of a Jeep’s braking and acceleration systems, its dashboard and more

In another experiment on a Tesla, computer security experts managed to trick the car’s Autopilot self-driving software and swerve into the oncoming traffic lane.

In September 2016, The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) began a cooperation to develop joint standards related to automotive and ITS to counter Cybersecurity threats. The result of 2 years of drafting by 82 contributors, including OEMs, Tier Ones, semiconductor vendors, cybersecurity specialist companies, academic institutions, and others was to create a universal standard for automotive cybersecurity to better control cyber risk in vehicles: ISO SAE 21434 Road Vehicles – Cybersecurity Engineering.

ISO/SAE 21434 Standard for Cybersecurity

Yet to be approved, this new standard creates a universal framework for suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and vendors to keep connected vehicles more secure.

One of the most important features of the standard is that it establishes universal terms for auto cybersecurity. However, it also emphasizes the importance of both assessing and managing vehicle cybersecurity, but part of managing cybersecurity risk is being able to communicate that risk and mitigate threats via universally-understood terms.

The intention is that digitally connected vehicles will be designed and produced according to these baseline cybersecurity requirements. The standard also serves as a reference for industry regulators to enforce vehicle cybersecurity and protect drivers from the consequences of cyberattacks.

All phases of creating the vehicle must be in compliance with the standard, including the design, engineering, production, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning phases. Outlining these stages in the standard ensures that cybersecurity is considered throughout the entire process of creating digitally connected vehicles for a more comprehensively secure result. The standard stresses that cybersecurity shouldn’t be an afterthought—it should be at the forefront of creating vehicles with connectivity capabilities to ensure better security.

By mandating cybersecurity requirements throughout the entire process, ISO SAE 21434 helps create an inherently more securely connected vehicle. While the standard doesn’t define specific solutions for mitigating threats (likely because the vehicle cybersecurity landscape is changing so quickly, like many modern technologies), it does establish minimum criteria for engineering a vehicle with cybersecurity threats in mind. It only describes the intention of a process and intentionally leaves the actual design of the process in the hands of the user. At the same time, to cope with the fast pace of cybersecurity development, the standard does not provide specific cybersecurity technologies or solutions, recovery solutions or clearly specified technical requirements.

The standard does however emphasize the importance of both identifying and addressing cybersecurity risks in a vehicle. ISO SAE 21434 compliance is more than understanding the terminology used for auto cybersecurity. You must identify gaps in your procedures, analyse risk, and continue to develop your standards for auto cybersecurity. It will be valid for road vehicle type E/E systems, and more recently Electric and Electronic Vehicle systems including their components, software and interfaces up to any external network or device.

The challenge of dealing with complexity

In terms of harmonization, standardization and implementation of effective frameworks the automotive industry is generally considered to be at the cutting edge.

Nevertheless, cybersecurity is a relatively new topic in the context of the automobile.

And it’s not as if the automotive industry isn’t currently facing enough challenges: tougher competitive situations in the context of globalization, rising cost pressure, shorter development cycles, increasing complexity in general …

The four challenges are first, the vehicle complexity. Vehicles are having more and more interfaces, and each of those interfaces is becoming increasingly software-based and has more and more functionality. This means that the overall threat of attack on the vehicle is growing.

The second challenge is the backend systems. We’re seeing more and more vehicles being connected today and in the upcoming years to backend systems. The vehicle uploads data to those systems and is increasingly controlled by these backend systems. Those backend systems are in turn connected to other backend systems, which ultimately increase the number of ways in which an attacker can get from the internet to a controlling position of the vehicle.

 The third is supply chain. The vehicle has a very complex supply chain, both horizontally and vertically. And managing the supply chain from the cybersecurity perspective for the lifetime of the vehicle, which could be between 10 and 15 years, is complex.

And last but not least is the changing threat landscape. While the vehicle is on the road for 10 and 15 years, during this period, there will be new threats introduced, both because of changing functionality in the vehicle and because of new attack techniques that will be in the market.

To enable security in this environment, solutions need to be found to:

  1. Secure the vehicle throughout its lifecycle, from development through production and in its post-production period.
  2. Apply a centralized detection system that will collect logs from the vehicles, the communication channel, and the backend systems, and detect threats on the vehicles coming both directly from the backend systems and from the communication channels.
  3. Secure supply chain management, which means that OEMs need to require that suppliers and service providers implement cybersecurity management systems and the ability to detect new threats in an ongoing basis throughout the vehicle lifecycle.
  4. Ensure these securities are in place to minimise the changing threat landscape

Looking for skills to deliver new standards

The new automotive ecosystem requires the highest embedded electronic engineering skills to provide ISO/SAE 21434 compliance in and amongst the other connectivity issues….finding these skills are difficult. It takes expertise in the marketplace to find the right fit. Companies such as CIS have had over 20 years in the Embedded Engineering market seeking the best engineers to fit complex projects particularly in IoT, automotive and ISO/SAE 21434. To make sure you are ahead of the curve with the right skills, contact Richard McCullagh on richardm@cis-ee.com or 0034 960 038 634.