September 28

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Top 3 Security Risk That Threatens Autonomous Vehicles

In the past few years, almost every famous car manufacturer seems to be in a race for producing the perfect version of self-driving cars. These vehicles are expected to improve traffic flow and safety; however, they also represent a new target for cybercriminals.

Autonomous vehicles rely on software and connectivity and are vulnerable to the simplest of hacks. Let's review some security challenges autonomous car manufacturers are facing.

1. Attacks on Cloud-Based Networks

Autonomous vehicles process a large amount of data in real-time to provide the best experience, traffic flow, and route calculations. They use cloud computing services to store and retrieve this information. With so much data processing involved, malicius actors can find and exploit vulnerabilities. For example, if attackers access the car's cloud database, he/she will be able to manipulate features and switch off safety devices.

Similarly, as the data is transmitted in real-time, the information is not highly encrypted, leaving another security problem to take care of.

2. Multiple components and technologies

A single company does not manufacture all the components used in vehicles these days, which means that multiple technologies are involved. It might create a security weakness and the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals as it becomes challenging to identify weak links between technologies. Car manufacturers usually perform penetration testing to make sure of their vehicles' security.

3. Network attacks

A network attack compromises the security of the network commonly using the attack surface. Hackers deploy malware and advanced persistent threats (APTs) on endpoints to gaining access to a network. Autonomous car technologies such as Vehicle to everything (V2X), Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) are vulnerable since they rely on their connectivity on Wii, Bluetooth, GSM protocols, among other which contain known bugs.

For example, the Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) technology communicates cars to exchange information using insecure and unencrypted protocols that enable attackers to eavesdrop the traffic between vehicles. Attackers can launch an Impersonation attack and establishing communication with a legit host. It leaves open the opportunity to send malicious code and receive sensitive information.

As autonomous cars are expected to flood the market in the next 5 to 10 years, manufacturers must work out vehicle safety. Many companies such as Tesla and Fiat Chrysler are now hugely investing in their security by offering incentives to hackers through their Bug Bounty Programs.

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About the author

Gabriela Granda

I am a Systems Engineer specialized in security and networking. I'm interested in defensive security and forensics.

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