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Auto Industry ISAC Releases Best Practices For Connected Vehicle Cybersecurity

Goal is to provide car manufactures with guidelines for protecting modern vehicles against emerging cyber threats

The Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC) has released a set of cybersecurity best practices for connected vehicles.

The document, developed over the course of five months by a group of more than 50 cybersecurity experts from the auto industry, is designed to demonstrate the collective commitment by automakers to make modern cars safer against emerging cyber threats.

The best practices cover seven broad areas, including governance and accountability, risk assessment and management, secure design practices, threat detection and mitigation, and incident response. In each case the guidance has been adapted for the car industry from established cybersecurity standards like NIST's cybersecurity framework and ISO.

For example, the best practices pertaining to governance and accountability are based on ISO/IEC 27001 guidelines and cover topics like how to ensure proper executive oversight of vehicle security and how to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to cybersecurity.

Similarly, the risk assessment and management guidelines are based on the National Institute of Standards and Technologies’ 800-30 guide for risk assessments. Best practices covered under this section include establishing standard processes for identifying and prioritizing cyber risk, establishing a process for managing identified risks and monitoring and evaluating changes in risks as part of a continuous risk assessment process.

Each of the best practices under the remaining categories is similarly based on existing cybersecurity guidelines such as NIST SP 800-61, NIST SP 800–150, and ISO/IEC 27010.

“Automakers are committed to being proactive and will not wait for cyber threats to materialize into safety risks,” said Toyota executive and Auto-ISAC chairman Tom Stricker in a statement. “The Best Practices initiative represents this commitment to proactive collaboration that our industry made when we stood up the Auto-ISAC last year.”

The best practices document builds on efforts by automakers to shore up confidence in the industry’s ability to address cyber threats in emerging vehicles without government intervention. Modern vehicles feature dozens of wireless-enabled electronic components. Security researchers believe that many of these components are susceptible to the same kind of security issues as any Internet-connected computer such as privilege escalation flaws, buffer overflow errors and malware.

Demonstrations by security researchers in recent years have shown that concerns about the susceptibility of modern connected vehicles to cyber threats, are not merely theoretical.

Last year for instance, a pair of security researchers demonstrated how attackers could take complete remote control of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s braking, steering, and other critical systems from 10 miles away while the vehicle was traveling at 70 miles per hour. The exploit resulted in Chrysler recalling some 1.4 million vehicles so it could mitigate the vulnerability exploited by the researchers for the demo.

Other researchers have shown how it is possible for attackers to remotely control a vehicle’s braking system and other key components using specially crafted SMS messages.

The concerns sparked by such demonstrations have been exacerbated by what until recently at least has been the auto industry’s own slowness to recognize the magnitude of the threat.

For instance, a report released last February by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, based on feedback from more than a dozen automakers, showed that manufacturers had few standard practices for preventing unauthorized remote access to vehicles, for detecting and responding to vehicle system infiltrations and for detecting past intrusions.

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