Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/19/2016
01:35 PM
Cameron Camp
Cameron Camp
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

Deconstructing Connected Cars: A Hack Waiting To Happen

Why your automobile's simple and reliable Controller Area Network will put you at risk in the brave new world of connected and autonomous driving.

Car hacking would be as hard to explain to classic car buffs as hacking a bicycle would be to a ten year-old. But today’s cars are able to drive, stop, and park with computer assistance or total control. Step on the brake and it’s likely you are interacting with an invisible computerized driver rather than your car itself. If computers are really doing the driving, then they, rather than you, become hacking targets. Lose control of that computer, and dangerous things can happen.

But the computers found in autonomous vehicles and smart cars are not what you’d find on your laptop or even your mobile device. Rewind five or ten years, and think of specific computers performing unique, dedicated tasks, like moving a lever or switch. They don’t need to be able to do your taxes, just open a valve.

Now imagine the kind of network that would tie together all these simple devices to form a complete working car, kind of a constellation of dedicated computers driving at the speed limit down a road. This network—typically a Controller Area Network—is simple and extremely reliable, and present in all contemporary autos. Reliable car systems are the bedrock of the automotive industry, but leveled against modern hacking techniques, they also can provide a very reliable hacking surface. Without better security, autonomous and connected vehicles put passengers at risk of car hacking and even demands from ransomware proliferators.

The problem with being “too” connected
The average new car in 2015 contained more than 30 microprocessors, and the security of those embedded systems is severely challenged by in-vehicle internet connectivity, according to a recent report by VDC research. The same report states that by 2020, more than three-quarters of new vehicles will have internet connectivity through an embedded modem and/or a smartphone interface.

The basic flaw in autonomous vehicles is the vulnerability that results from all systems being interconnected. The Controller Area Network, or CAN bus, runs the important things in a car like engine and transmission controls, as well as the system you’ll interact most with: the infotainment computer on your dashboard. The infotainment system is often tied to the internet to enable you to get directions. If the infotainment system intersects both the CAN bus and the internet, suddenly over-the-air hacks become more of a reality if the bus is left unsecured. This is the most worrisome repercussion of connected car hacking -- possibly affecting your vehicle unbeknownst to you while you drive down the road.

Prior to the infotainment system interacting with the CAN bus, you’d need physical access to the vehicle to tell things on the CAN bus what to do. But more modern infotainment systems have the ability to change things directly on the CAN bus and not just monitor them (like your fuel level), allowing a significant attack surface to present itself.

Protecting autonomous and connected vehicles against cyberattacks
So how can automakers protect against attacks from a cyber enemy? If the recent hacking of connected vehicles has taught us anything, it’s time for the CAN bus to get a security overhaul using the lessons learned from every other commercial network in the world over the past five years: by putting network security best practices in place. By determining the authenticity of commands sent across the CAN bus, and preventing rogue ones from being acted upon, the CAN bus – and therefore your car – becomes exponentially safer. That won’t help older automobiles, but security add-ons are available, to an extent.

The next step is locking down the infotainment system from having unlimited read/write access to critical vehicle control systems by accessing the CAN bus. And just in case you thought CAN buses were only for cars, there is a new round of electronic products for bicycles that use it as well. Now THAT would blow a 10-year-old’s mind.

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada July 30 through Aug. 4, 2016. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

Cameron Camp is a researcher for global security provider ESET, and has played a critical role in growing the ESET North America Research Lab. Cameron has been building critical technology infrastructures for more than 20 years, beginning as an assembly language programmer in ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
When Your Sandbox Fails
Kowsik Guruswamy, Chief Technology Officer at Menlo Security,  4/11/2019
Julian Assange Arrested in London
Dark Reading Staff 4/11/2019
8 'SOC-as-a-Service' Offerings
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  4/12/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-1840
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-18
A vulnerability in the DHCPv6 input packet processor of Cisco Prime Network Registrar could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to restart the server and cause a denial of service (DoS) condition on the affected system. The vulnerability is due to incomplete user-supplied input validation when...
CVE-2019-1841
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-18
A vulnerability in the Software Image Management feature of Cisco DNA Center could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to access to internal services without additional authentication. The vulnerability is due to insufficient validation of user-supplied input. An attacker could exploit this vuln...
CVE-2019-1826
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-18
A vulnerability in the quality of service (QoS) feature of Cisco Aironet Series Access Points (APs) could allow an authenticated, adjacent attacker to cause a denial of service (DoS) condition on an affected device. The vulnerability is due to improper input validation on QoS fields within Wi-Fi fra...
CVE-2019-1829
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-18
A vulnerability in the CLI of Cisco Aironet Series Access Points (APs) could allow an authenticated, local attacker to gain access to the underlying Linux operating system (OS) without the proper authentication. The attacker would need valid administrator device credentials. The vulnerability is due...
CVE-2019-1830
PUBLISHED: 2019-04-18
A vulnerability in Locally Significant Certificate (LSC) management for the Cisco Wireless LAN Controller (WLC) could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to cause the device to unexpectedly restart, which causes a denial of service (DoS) condition. The attacker would need to have valid administr...