BlackBerry release guidelines to accelerate connected car security

BlackBerry is aiming to address connected car security concerns with a framework intended to harden them against cyber attacks.

Connected cars herald an era where you no longer just have to protect them from being physically broken into, but also hacked into. Compromised vehicles could pose a threat to safety through remote control, or be used to access sensitive data such as location.

I’ve covered hacks of connected cars on several occasions; including a Tesla being hacked for a second year by the same researchers. That case joined high-profile incidents with other leading automotive manufacturers including Jeep and Mitsubishi.

Like any computer, there will always be new vulnerabilities to be found and exploited. However, this should never be an excuse not to make them as secure as possible.

Connected car security guidelines

BlackBerry has a reputation for security and has created a recommended framework to guard connected cars against cyber threats. The guidelines are unlikely to make a vehicle immune to attacks but should help to reduce the prevalence of successful attempts.

"Protecting a car from cybersecurity threats requires a holistic approach," said Sandeep Chennakeshu, President of BlackBerry Technology Solutions. "Leveraging our experience as a leader in cybersecurity and embedded automotive software, BlackBerry has created a recommended framework to protect cars from cybersecurity threats."

Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • Secure the supply chain: Establish a root of trust by ensuring every chip and electronic control unit (ECU) in the automobile can be properly authenticated and loaded with trusted software, irrespective of vendor or manufacturer. Scan all software deployed for compliance to standards and required security posture. Conduct regular evaluations of the supply chain from a vulnerability and penetration testing perspective to ensure they are certified and "approved for delivery."

  • Use trusted components: Create a security architecture that is deeply layered in a defense in depth architecture, with secure hardware, software, and applications.

  • Employ isolation and trusted messaging: Use an electronic system architecture that isolates safety critical and non-safety critical ECUs and can also "run-safe" when anomalies are detected. Additionally, ensure all communication between the electronics in the automobile and the external world are trusted and secure. Further, ECU-to-ECU communication needs to be trusted and secure.

  • Conduct in-field health checks: Ensure all ECUs have integrated analytics and diagnostics software that can capture events, and are able to log and report the same to a cloud-based tool for further analysis and to initiate preventative actions. Moreover, automakers should confirm that a defined set of metrics can be scanned regularly when the car is in the field, as well as be able to take actions to address issues via secure over-the-air (OTA) software updates.

  • Create a rapid incident response network: Share common vulnerabilities and exposures among a network of subscribing enterprises so expert teams can learn from each other and provide advisories and fixes in shorter time frames.

  • Use a lifecycle management system: Proactively re-flash a vehicle with secure OTA software updates as soon as an issue is detected. Manage security credentials via active certificate management. Deploy unified endpoint policy management to manage applications downloaded over the lifetime of the car.

  • Make safety and security a part of the culture: Ensure every organisation involved in supplying auto electronics is trained in functional safety and security best practices to inculcate this culture within the organisation.

BlackBerry claims to either have, or are developing, solutions which help connected vehicle manufacturers to meet these guidelines. They’ll be demonstrating these during CES in Las Vegas next month.

The full whitepaper can be downloaded here.

What are your thoughts on BlackBerry’s connected car security guidelines? Let us know in the comments.

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