Vehicle security in the digital age: "We receive hundreds of thousands of security alerts a day"

Moran Chen, an Israeli director of the international automotive company HARMAN, talked about the difficult challenges that are required today in securing modern cars.

She says that "In the average car the new releases have over 100 million lines of code embedded, which is why the security challenges in cars are so great".

HARMAN is a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, specializing in the development of technologies for connected cars and other IT solutions.

Chen said: "Today’s vehicles are like computers on wheels. Vehicles contain a network of between 70 and 100 ECUs, various computer units that control the engine’s function, affect the vehicle’s brake system, control the vehicle’s air conditioning system, and more, and this means quite a few security problems that need to be dealt with".

According to Moran, beyond the huge amount of code that is in the family car today, more and more vehicles are connected and linked to the cloud (V2C), to other vehicles (V2V), to infrastructure (V2X) and to pedestrians (V2P). That is, the level of connectivity expands, the technology advances and alongside the benefits and capabilities it brings with it, the risk increases – and the vulnerability and exposure to attacks increases: "It is not only cases where there is malicious intent to break into a car. For example, not long ago, a case was published in Canada about a Tesla owner who came to the car, got in, drove with it and while driving realized that he was not driving in his car. Among other things, he found a medical document of the original car owner in the car and contacted him – and the car owners realized that they had parked next to each other. Fortunately for the car owners, it ended safely and they got their vehicles back. But the story shows that the vulnerability is increasing as the amount of code and technology in the vehicle increases".

Moran said: "With the ever-increasing role that the Internet and technology play in our daily lives, it is especially important to prioritize the issue of safety. […] Organizational systems are complex and interconnected, so vulnerabilities tend to spread quickly".

As part of the HARMAN solution basket, there are also cyber security solutions designed to protect both vehicles and passengers. The company’s DTS unit created the DefenSight Cybersecurity platform, which leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to help companies proactively deal with cyber threats: “Because companies today face a variety of security risks, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution – every organization has Its own unique pressure points, DefenSight continuously monitors the compliance of corporate IT systems against security policies to quickly and accurately identify the most vulnerable systems – and is able to resolve the vulnerabilities and automatically apply the appropriate software solution to reduce the cost, complexity and time required to fix corporate vulnerabilities".

In Moran’s estimation, HARMAN’s Security Operations Center (SOC) in Israel receives hundreds of thousands of alerts from the car manufacturers’ cloud every day, and through it new activities and attacks can be identified and alerted to the customer: "You should also take into account that any software may have bugs and security vulnerabilities and it doesn’t matter how many tests are done during the development process or after it. The solution we are developing in Israel, the OTA – over the air updates, makes it possible at any stage and in a very simple way, without the need to physically go to the service center, to update the software in the vehicle with an updated version that is safe to use. This allows the customer and the automaker to protect themselves when an attack, or breach, is discovered, whether it’s something the customer has identified or received information about from a third party. The car manufacturer can close the circle and quickly repair the damage to the car".

Moran Chen
Moran Chen Photo: Herman
Harman - automatic car - car - steering wheel
Photo: Herman

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