Autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity and the dangers.

The future of automobiles is changing, so we must be prepared. Learn more about the cybersecurity of autonomous vehicles.

As the years go by, the automotive industry is updating itself by creating more and more cars with important updates in their structures; in this case, autonomous cars have a large number of connections between the car’s infrastructure and the networks that surround them. So it can create new threats and vulnerabilities as a result of this same interconnection; due to the fact that cars will be more and more dependent on networks and software. So, learn more about autonomous vehicles and their cybersecurity.

Autonomous vehicles
Autonomous vehicles

What are autonomous cars and how do they work?

Autonomous cars are those that have certain software necessary to mimic the human ability to drive. From a simpler point of view, autonomous cars are those that do not require a driver; although as I mentioned earlier, the world of automobiles is constantly changing, so this concept evolved; this created several levels in what is autonomous driving.

The way in which autonomous cars work, is through the analysis of the environment, and then apply the driving techniques required by the situation. In this area, the person occupying the vehicle has control over the route and the destination to which he/she wants to go; however, he/she does not intervene in the process of driving the car.

Speaking more specifically of its components. The way in which these cars perceive the environment is through certain tools such as GPS, radar, sensors, LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) cameras, among others. All these functions work together to make possible the analysis of the environment; through this analysis it is possible not only to decipher the routes, but also to locate obstacles and overcome them successfully.

On the other hand, the interconnection is developed through certain mapping analysis that determines the terrain. All this depends on software that is created through the use of artificial intelligence connected in turn to the cloud.

Levels in autonomous driving

As mentioned above, there are several levels in autonomous driving. These levels determine the complexity of the car’s technology. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) there are several criteria that determine the level of autonomy. Level 0 refers to the level that requires complete human intervention in order to drive, i.e. it is not autonomous. On the other hand, the following levels are:

  • Level 1: means that the individual controls are automatic. Therefore, having some of these features autonomously, such as emergency brakes, cruise control, among others, would already be part of this level.
  • Level 2: to enter this level it is necessary that at least two of the aforementioned functions are performed autonomously. An example could be the safety brake and cruise control.
  • Level 3: for this level it is necessary that the car manages all functions autonomously. However, human intervention is required in a concrete way; either to give orders or to signal routes manually.
  • Level 4: at this level, human intervention is no longer required. In this case it is only necessary that the passenger indicates the initial route before starting. Otherwise the car must be able to fulfill absolutely all the controls autonomously; in this way it can be considered a fully autonomous car, and thus enter this level.

Cybersecurity in autonomous vehicles

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, new technologies are always being integrated into all areas of our lives. From work, through studies, to our home. Among these are automobiles, which, as they evolve, are adding new technologies to make them more efficient. This is where the role of cybersecurity comes in; this is because it is necessary to add different protection measures to all these new technologies that are being integrated.

Cybersecurity threats in autonomous vehicles.

We know that autonomous cars have represented a technological breakthrough for society. Mainly because it has brought a number of benefits to society; whether it is the reduction of traffic accidents, to the improvement of traffic flow; among other factors. However, as well as there are benefits, we must also see the negative side; this negative side consists of cyber-attacks. We refer to a cyber-attack, to these actions carried out by a person with knowledge in the computer area; in order to create damage through digital resources.

Since we know that autonomous cars have a number of software and computing resources, they are also prone to attacks. So what are the possible risks and consequences of cyber-attacks?

  • Failures in the functions of the driving tools: as a result of an attack on this feature set there could be: loss of control of the brakes, engine and steering wheel.
  • Vehicle systems failures: this can occur at the point where the most basic functions are attacked and can often be identified as a failure; either when door locks fail, loss of lights, or problems in general security operation.
  • Theft of sensitive data: when suffering an attack, it can result in the theft of private information; either theft of personal data, theft of infrastructure information or directly theft of vehicle information.
  • Creation of accidents: some consequences of attacks on autonomous cars may include the death of the driver, pedestrians or major crashes. As a major attack, by interfering with the main functions of the car, the attacker can create fatal accidents.

How can autonomous cars be protected?

Now that we know the possible risks that can result from a cyber-attack, it is our duty to provide some techniques for the protection of your autonomous vehicle.

  • Efficient vulnerability analysis: as we know, vulnerability analysis exists within IT security; in the case of autonomous vehicles, it is necessary to analyze the security gaps that may be present in the software used in the car.
  • Continuous risk monitoring: always be aware of new updates in the field of automotive software, security patches, among others.
  • Supporting the development of new methods: supporting companies in the development of new security methods is always viable. Although people’s participation in this process is almost indirect; contacting customer service and making use of complaints or recommendations will always be valuable for the development of new security techniques.

We hope this information will be of great value to everyone who owns an autonomous vehicle; it is everyone’s duty to always be informed, as more and more technology is part of our lives. Being safe is one of the main missions of automotive companies; so always being updated on cybersecurity is a great strategy.

Interesting related articles: Attacking and defending, who wins?

Other articles that may interest you: Konferenco 2022, the Monero conference comes to Lisbon.