Cyber security

Protecting Automobiles Against Hackers: A Quick Lesson on Automotive Cybersecurity


Automotive cybersecurity is vital for vehicle safety. There are dozens of computers in modern vehicles, and they aren’t just for navigation or music. Nearly every system on your vehicle is monitored and controlled by computers. Therefore, automotive cyber security is necessary.

Hackers can steal data or even take control of a car if the computer systems aren’t adequately protected. As you might expect, this makes automotive cyber security a top priority for customers, automakers, and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

But what do you need to know about automotive cyber security? We’ll look at what is automotive cybersecurity and the biggest dangers to IoT and connected vehicles. 

So let’s just start it.

Why Is Automotive Cybersecurity So Important?

Modern automobiles, as previously said, rely significantly on computer systems to monitor and regulate the vehicle’s various systems. As a result, hackers can steal data, such as your location information via GPS, if an automobile’s equipment isn’t secure.

But it gets much scarier, hackers can provide commands to vehicles, causing them to obey the hacker rather than the driver. While having your data taken is unsettling, the prospect of a hacker gaining control of your vehicle is horrifying. For example, hackers can utilize orders to turn on or off things like your air conditioning and windshield wipers and manipulate your steering, brakes, and engine.

An Overview of Automotive Cybersecurity

What exactly do we mean when saying “automotive cyber security” or “vehicle cybersecurity”? It is defined as follows by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

“In the context of road vehicles, cybersecurity is defined as “the protection of automotive electronic systems, communication networks, control algorithms, software, users, and underlying data from malicious assaults, damage, unauthorized access, and manipulation.”

That’s a lot of information to take in. So let’s have a look at it in plain English.

When we talk about automotive cyber security, we’re referring to protecting in-vehicle computer systems from cybercriminals and other unauthorized individuals who may be up to no good.

An automotive cybersecurity strategy entails:

  • Protect your data (such as your GPS location or data from your smartphone connected to the Bluetooth speaker) from being stolen.
  • Stop hackers from controlling or manipulating your vehicle (by disabling the burglar alarm or fooling the collision avoidance system.
  • Verify that no one may damage your vehicle (resetting your oil change counter, so you don’t get your oil changed on time).

For connected automobiles, there are seven crucial issues to solve cybersecurity:

  • Designing for security
  • Assessment and management of risks
  • Detection and defence against threats
  • Response to an incident
  • Third-party collaboration and involvement
  • Governance
  • Training and awareness

There are three components to automotive cybersecurity:

  • Authentication and Access Control (AAC) – Who is authorized to do what they are allowed to do.
  • Detection and Incident Response – Detecting, reporting, and responding to threats and attacks.
  • External Attack Protection – Preventing unauthorized controls and viruses, securing data, and protecting communications, among other things.
    A multi-layer security technique comes in handy in this situation. Internal and external connections should be secured, and embedded intrusion detection and prevention technologies should be used to ease authentication, secure system upgrades, and safeguard the operating system.

Cyber-Attacks on Automobiles

So, what does an actor need to do if they want to take control of a car or its systems? They must first find a technique to access the vehicle’s systems. This allows them to compromise an electronic control unit (ECU), the automotive industry’s designation for an automotive IoT device or computer, and locate a feature to compromise.

There are several areas where we should be concerned about cyberattack methods:

  • Physical assaults are made directly. When someone has direct physical access to a vehicle, such as when it’s at a shop for repairs or someone breaks into it, these attacks occur. Onboard vehicle networks, ports, and connectors are routinely used in these assaults. For example, an attacker could install hardware or software on your vehicle that allows them to take control of it later (while you’re driving it).
  • Physical hazards that aren’t visible. This type of attack necessitates the use of some medium. Firmware upgrades, SD cards, and USB devices are examples of these mediums. For example, an attacker could persuade a vehicle owner to put in a malware-infected MP3 player.
  • Vulnerabilities in wireless networks This can range from short-range attacks such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth attacks to long-range strategies including GPS or cellular technologies. The hacker does not require physical access to your car to carry out these attacks.
  • Vulnerabilities in sensor deception: There aren’t any known threats of this nature that don’t rule out the possibility of sensors being exploited.

Without any internal defensive systems in place, if a hacker gains access to the virtual interiors of your vehicle, they’re free to do whatever they want with it.

Strong automotive cyber security comes into play here, keeping hackers out of vehicle systems and preventing them from causing problems if they do get in.

How to Make Connected Automobiles More Secure?

To boost security and cover all three areas of automotive cyber security mentioned above, various security solutions must be integrated into connected automobiles.

Defense-in-depth, or numerous layers of protection, is the key to security. If one piece of the security system fails, you’ll need additional components to step in.

The following are the components of adequate automotive cybersecurity:

  • Putting the correct answers together. For example, an embedded firewall can aid in detecting and reporting threats.
  • Communication security. This involves both internal and external communications to a vehicle and communication between the vehicle and other vehicles.
  • Authenticating data transmissions. This requires identifying who is interacting with a vehicle and preventing unauthorized devices from communicating with it.
  • The process of encrypting data. Encrypting data aids in the protection of personal information.

Authenticate and secure communications by incorporating certificate-based safeguards

The security and authentication of communication sessions between and within vehicle systems. This is accomplished through the usage of critical public infrastructure (PKI).

Authentication is an integral part of cybersecurity in general. This is true whether you’re discussing automobile cyber security or available cybersecurity for other businesses. You’re less likely to fall for scams, and your defense mechanisms can sort out fraudulent communications if you can verify that the person or system talking with you is authentic.

Authentication and Encryption using Digital Certificates

SSL/TLS certificates, as you may know, are used to establish secure, encrypted interactions between parties (traditionally clients and browsers). Securing communications through the use of secure protocols offers various security benefits in the context of automotive cyber security:

Encrypts the communication between the vehicle’s devices.

  • Communication between the vehicle and “home” is encrypted (for example, the manufacturer)
  • Authenticates gadgets so that only authorized devices can send orders to the vehicle’s computers.
  • Authenticates software upgrades using code signing certificates, ensuring that only the manufacturer can access the vehicle’s software.

How Can Automotive Cybersecurity Be Improved and Vehicle Hacking Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, automotive cybersecurity does not offer a universal solution. However, based on the most prevalent auto hacking methods listed above, here’s what we advise automakers to do to protect their vehicles.

Detection of threats

Nowadays, automotive hackers have a more excellent range of options for attacking your vehicle. Thus, companies must detect suspicious activity before they become compromised at every point of vulnerability.

Logins that are easier to use and more secure

There are numerous remote control features available on modern automobiles (remote start, for example). As manufacturers increase the number of connected cars they produce, this list will almost certainly grow.

However, if any of these remote access points are weak, it introduces significant vulnerabilities. As a result, it’s vital to protect each one.

Among the improvements is improved encryption on the critical fob radio frequencies. But, perhaps, more importantly, it entails protecting logins and passwords for mobile apps, as well as vital server access.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and biometrics are two features that can help secure access and deter hackers seeking a quick way in. For example, a user must have more than just their name and password to log in with multi-factor authentication. Instead, access requires an extra credential, such as a voice sample, fingerprint, or mobile device.

APIs that are safe to use

APIs provide a means by which different proprietary software systems can communicate with one another. As more automotive systems expose APIs for remote access via third-party software, it will be vital to defending these entry points with modern authentication techniques to ensure they are safe from hackers.

Cybersecurity Solutions That Are Adaptable

The automotive industry is a fast-paced sector. Therefore, your threat detection, authentication, and identity management systems must be adaptive enough to match your changing business objectives to keep up with the ongoing developments in cybersecurity.

You must be able to adapt your infrastructure to such changes as:

If there are some new features, you may need to handle new entry points/vulnerabilities due to this.

There are new methods and places to put those features to use. Some users may attempt to connect their cars to local Wi-Fi networks while parking at a restaurant, posing a security risk.

Hackers are coming up with new ways to break into vehicle systems. Attackers are always looking for flaws to exploit. As a result, keeping up with new developments in the automotive industry is critical.

Manufacturers must take the initiative

While the advanced networking capabilities of today’s cars are incredible, they also make vehicle security much more complex than simply remembering to lock the doors.

Customers cannot protect themselves against numerous vulnerabilities. As a result, it’s up to manufacturers to take the initiative and set the pace.

Final words 

Every company should undergo cybersecurity training on a more regular basis. Practical cybersecurity training can help keep your data and information safe from hackers.

With Kloudlearn’s Free Cybersecurity Training and Career Development Program, you may develop a solid cybersecurity awareness. You will obtain hands-on experience in cybersecurity with industry-recognized credentials through our engaging live events and self-paced lectures. Register now to become a cybersecurity expert and assist your team in identifying their strengths and weaknesses through a series of skill evaluations that will help them determine their next steps.


What is automotive cybersecurity?

Almost all of your vehicle's systems, including the steering, brakes, and engine, are affected., and are monitored and controlled by computers. This is why cyber security in the automotive industry is critical. Hackers can steal data or even take control of a vehicle if the computer systems aren't properly protected.

What is IoT in the automotive industry?

In brief, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected devices that exchange data over the internet. This allows complex devices such as electronics, actuators, and sensors in the automotive industry to share information with other cars connected to the internet.

What is the cyber security automotive industry?

malicious attacks, damage, unauthorized access, or manipulation of automotive electronic systems, communication networks, control algorithms, software, users, and underlying data

What are the challenges facing the automotive industry?

The automotive industry now faces the most significant challenge globally due to a shortage of qualified personnel.

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