TRL researching vehicle cyber security
TRL, which until recent years was known as the Transport Research Laboratory, has reported that it is investigating “the everyday risks of cyber security breaches as vehicles become more digitally controlled.”
According to researchers such research is increasingly important as the next generation of autonomous vehicles make their debut next year (something that has been covered by Tyrepress/Tyres & Accessories a number of times in the past – see “Automotive suppliers, smart cars, intelligent tyres and safety concerns” and “Researchers Hack a Hole In Tyre Tag Security” for more on this subject). The specific risk is said to be related to the interception of data packages communicated to and from vehicles is ever present. Therefore the encryption and decryption of software and data is likely to become “the battleground between the vehicle manufacturers and the cyber terrorists or hackers as programmers will need to be able to ensure rigour in the systems’ coding”, says TRL (indeed this was one of the key recommendations of University research into a related area back in 2010).
There are also specific areas of interest related to electric vehicles and the road infrastructure network. Of course vehicle manufacturers are increasingly integrating technology into their vehicles, which interacts with everything from safety systems to entertainment systems with very little thought to vulnerabilities from cyber-attack. This is particular the case with electric vehicles and their associated charging infrastructure. According to TRL experts, “there is very real cyber security risk which can be exploited by hackers or terrorists.”
The problem is that cyber security standards are in their infancy and not all incorporate the specific risks associated with vehicle security or with electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. As technology moves forward, this becomes even more important. For example building management systems and cloud-based BIM have significantly increased in use, enabling contractors to share vital information instantly. However, this additional risk with it too. To this end, TRL points out that it is the technical author of UK and international vehicle barrier standards.
And finally this stretches all the way to traffic management systems, which provide another potential weak point and are vulnerable to cyber-attack; for example, altering the timing of the traffic signals. But before anyone starts feeling paranoid, TRL points out that it developed SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique), which is currently used in over 250 cities worldwide. And this, laboratory representatives say, helps its researchers identify and mitigate such risks.