Automotive cyber security must be efficient, scalable and foolproof, says Kaspersky

To build effective cyber security, developers must be security-focused right from the start. By Jack Hunsley

Vehicle exteriors have undergone sizeable changes over the last ten years, but the real transformation has taken place under the hood. One change is the sheer number of electronic control units (ECUs) modern vehicles contain. Today’s high-end vehicle can require as many as 100 ECUs to function as intended. Complex computing operations such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving will only add to the required computing power. Though these ECUs can enable connected services or automated driving, every additional link in the chain opens up potential cyber security flaws.

“The autonomous, connected, electric and shared (ACES) trends bring new requirements which modern automotive operating systems need to be capable of handling,” Ilya Efimov, Head of Technology Solutions Development, KasperskyOS told Automotive World. As he detailed, ADAS functionality requires significant computing power. While this power can be integrated, Kaspersky is concerned over the potential vulnerabilities which could be unlocked within safety-critical components. “As more cars are connected to the internet, it is clear that modern internet threats that we see on desktop computers or mobile devices will come to automotive too. Connected cars open a new attack vector,” he added.

Adaptive security

Kaspersky is no stranger to cyber security, and to tackle this new field it has developed the Kaspersky Automotive Adaptive Platform. The company says it offers a software development kit (SDK) with a ‘security-first’ design specifically for automotive, based on the company’s own operating system, KasperskyOS. “We see that this platform will be a solution for automotive vendors to reduce their cost. As the cyber security trend grows in automotive, our operating system is a great fit to combat a rising problem,” said Efimov. “Right now we have a version that automotive developers can use to develop their own applications, and we’re working on launching it commercially next year.”

“As vehicles start to communicate with other vehicles, with road infrastructure, with the wider network, they will also need additional cyber security solutions”

How does Kaspersky’s latest offering differ from the competition? Firstly, Efimov is eager to stress Kaspersky’s inherent cyber security expertise. “To cover some issues which we’ve seen in the Adaptive AUTOSAR Platform we have created our own approaches and we’ve introduced some Kaspersky technologies,” he said. “One example is the Kaspersky Security System (KSS) which we can integrate with our Adaptive AUTOSAR API to create a great cyber security product.”

Kaspersky has also designed a multi-layered security approach intended to cover all possible attack vectors. “We’ve analysed how data flows in the system, how external applications will use Adaptive AUTOSAR API and how we can protect their data, the operating system and other applications,” Efimov added. “With our technologies which are embedded in KasperskyOS, and with KSS, we can control all the dataflow on the system.” This design allows Kaspersky to create bespoke cyber security policies. KSS halts any action that would break security policies, effectively preventing any unapproved actions from taking place, including halting intruders before they can inject harmful malware.

With KasperskyOS we can restrict attacker actions. We designed this platform and this system in a way that no unapproved logic or function should be able to run on it

Another benefit is Kaspersky’s use of hypervisors, which allow a single host computer to virtually share its resources, such as memory and processing power, and to host several virtual machines. Hypervisor use will be critical in allowing for isolated operating system functionality. “For both safety and compatibility, modern automotive operating systems will need to be able to run isolated operating systems, or isolated functionality of some applications,” said Efimov. “For that purpose, they will need to be hypervisor-compatible.”

Future automotive applications

Today’s industry is rapidly evolving, as are hacking techniques. Any cyber security product must be able to scale quickly and effectively to best new threats.

To future-proof its platform, Kaspersky has implemented solutions to cover all known potential threat scenarios. Though future threats are unknown, Efimov is confident that the platform can react instinctively. “New threats which will emerge in the future should be covered by our implementations,” he said. “With KasperskyOS we can restrict attacker actions. We designed this platform and this system in a way that no unapproved logic or function should be able to run on it.”

“The ACES trends bring new requirements which modern automotive operating systems need to be capable of handling”

This security-by-design philosophy should allow Kaspersky’s platform to scale with the industry, especially as greater numbers of automated and connected vehicles make it to market. “This approach gives us the scalability for the future. If someone wants to implement autopilot functionality on our platform, we can integrate that autopilot system in such a way that it will perform only designed operations,” said Efimov. “Even if someone finds a flaw in that application, the operating system will not allow them to leverage that flaw.”

Ecosystem approach

Connected vehicles cannot function in isolation. To extract the most operational potential these vehicles must be integrated with the wider automotive Internet of Things (IoT). As such, Kaspersky also stresses the importance of an ecosystem security outlook. “If we talk about autonomous vehicles, we will also have to talk about vehicle-to-everything (V2X) infrastructure,” said Evgeniya Ponomareva, Business Development Manager, KasperskyOS. “As vehicles start to communicate with other vehicles, with road infrastructure, with the wider network, they will also need additional cyber security solutions.”

As more cars are connected to the internet, it is clear that modern internet threats that we see on desktop computers or mobile devices will come to automotive too. Connected cars open a new attack vector

This also applies to specific vehicles. As demonstrated via Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek’s infamous Jeep hack, where the pair took remote control of a Jeep Cherokee’s core driving systems via a vulnerability in its infotainment unit, every sub-system must be protected. And soon, European developers will be subject to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) WP.29 regulatory framework, which will force players to adopt a similar philosophy to Kaspersky’s secure-by-design mantra.

“This is one of the main reasons for us to join this market because we see that ‘classic’ solutions will not work in automotive. Our operating system and our adaptive platform are based on this upcoming regulation,” said Ponomareva. “We put security mechanisms on several layers. First at the operating system level. Then on the AUTOSAR Adaptive Platform. Then on the top of that, we can provide additional security features like secure boot and secure update.”

Automotive cyber security is still a maturing market, but it is one in which Kaspersky sees huge potential. Though no vehicle can ever be entirely cyber secure, Kaspersky is confident that its expertise will lead the way in the sector. “We are providing deep integration of Adaptive Platform and the KasperskyOS operating system,” added Efimov. “This gives us the freedom to implement security features and approaches in both the platform and the operating system itself.”

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