MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
Jan. 9, 2019

Contributed by Bob Chabot
Gearing Vehicles to Resist Hacking

Automakers now rely on security specialists

“The way automobile manufacturers create, configure, deploy and maintain new vehicles is changing as software-defined functionality makes advanced features, flexibility and convenience ever more widely accessible,” states James Morra, senior researcher for Electronic Design. “Today, vehicle manufacturers are relying on leading security providers to help remotely upgrade the hundreds of millions of lines of code inside vehicles.”

“Using security means similar to how telephone protection has been updated, these specialists are using vehicle microcontrollers and chips to better protect Ethernet, CAN, LIN and other automotive communication technologies,” Morra noted. He then shared some recent efforts made by three security companies — Infineon Technologies, ST Microelectronics and NXP Semiconductors.

Infineon Technologies Keys on Authentication and Encryption
Infineon Technologies is the second largest maker of automotive chips according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. Last year, Infineon supplied 10.8 percent of the vehicle semiconductor market. In November 2018, Martin Brunner, the company’s automotive security principal, announced that its Optiga Trusted Platform Module (OTPM) would be targeted at automotive ECUs.

“TPM microcontrollers are generally used for storing security keys in data centers and personal computers to prove that they are who they say they are to other systems and have not been compromised,” according to Brunner. “As a computer on wheels, the connected vehicle benefits from the experience of the information technology industry. In the complex interplay between software, network and cloud, it is security hardware that creates the solid foundation for secured communication.”

“Optiga’s microcontroller generates and stores passcodes that can be used for the authentication and encryption of the car’s communications,” Brunner added. “Installing the security device in the vehicle allows manufacturers to detect faulty components or manipulated software running inside them. Infineon’s new product can also be updated over time to reinforce the car against emerging security threats.”

Infineon Technology is focused on driver safety and comfort. See how its Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is dedicated to helping achieve both. (Video — Infineon Technologies)

ST Microelectronics Making Vehicles Smarter
“ST Microelectronics — the fourth largest vehicle semiconductor supplier — reinforces the security of the automobile’s electronic architecture, develops tougher security gateways, and provides electronic control units used in battery management, advanced driver assistance, and other functions,” Morra noted. “ST protects embedded devices in a number of different systems within the vehicle from meddling. In 2018, the company supplied 7.1 percent of the automotive chip market, according to Strategy Analytics."

“ST’s microchip technology is also trying to reinforce the security of the automobile’s electronic architecture,” added Morra. “Its CryptoAutomotive development tool emulates a secure node on a vehicle’s network, which allows manufacturers to program chips to enable the secure storage of passcodes and authentication of the vehicle’s electronic control units. In addition, the security company’s Hardware Security Module (HSM) encrypts communications and prevents the spread of malicious code. HSM’s three-core chip can run applications when downloading a code update while the vehicle is running, parked or during the middle of the night. In addition, the software being swapped out can also be saved inside the chip’s flash memory, which allows auto manufacturers to reinstall it in emergencies. The chip also contains 16 CAN and 24 LIN interfaces as well as independent Ethernet ports — the major networking standards used in automobiles — giving it the ability to function as a gateway for various electronic control units.”

“With great advances in artificial intelligence, rapidly increasing levels of automation and autonomous vehicles on the horizon, securing automotive networks is a clear and urgent necessity the industry is now widely acknowledging,” noted Nuri Dagdeviren, ST Microchip’s vice president of secure products group. “Our tools let our automotive customers start implementing security measures into existing vehicle networks immediately. For example, secure boot, CAN message authentication and other products allow customers to avoid a complete redesign with secure microcontrollers that handle many of the same security functions. As well, customers can also avoid reprogramming an electronic control unit's firmware to set up secure zones within hardware and software.”

ST Microelectronics shows how it is helping to make electromobility, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and other automotive applications smarter. (Video — ST Microelectronics)

NXP Semiconductors Protects Hardware Security
Morra noted that NXP Semiconductors takes advantage of efforts to protect vehicles against digital dangers. “The company started adding hardware security to its automotive microcontrollers in 2015.” he pointed out. “Today, every processor it develops for the sector includes a dedicated hardware security module. For example, NXP’s latest safety microcontroller, the S32S chip, can be used to manage the systems that accelerate, steer and brake automobiles. The chip acts on commands not only from drivers, but also from the vehicle’s central computer.”

“NXP Semiconductors’ transceivers protect CAN networks from being manipulated by filtering out messages that compromised ECUs are not programmed to send,” Morra explained. “The chips offer tamper protection and prevent systems from flooding each other with messages, overloading and causing them to malfunction. All these capabilities are handled in hardware, reducing the bandwidth overhead and processor load. The company is also focused on suppressing threats to the vehicle’s communications network. In the past year, NXP started selling transceiver chips with hardware security to protect the CAN bus. These networks are used in every automobile today to connect electronic control units and are expected to remain the dominant network of the next decade despite the increasing use of high bandwidth Ethernet.”

“Traditionally, CAN networks have allowed a single compromised electronic control unit to have direct access to others connected to it,” added` Jens Hinrichsen, NXP Senior Vice President. “But protection against malicious code through the use of message authentication codes, by generating and sending these messages around the automobile, has been costly in terms of bandwidth and power consumption. Vehicle manufacturers also have to tolerate longer message latencies. Our products enable customers to boost security without having to replace existing electronic control units. This translates to more efficiency and a reduction in the vital system resources needed for increasingly complex vehicles.”

NXP demonstrated its vision for smart mobility is zero emissions, zero congestion and zero fatalities in Central Ohio at the new Smart Columbus Experience Center. (Video — NXP Semiconductors)

Work Still Needs to Be Vigilant
The threat of hackers infiltrating a vehicle through a single electronic control unit could get increasingly serious over time. For instance, a hack that successfully attacks a vehicle infotainment system can then pilfer personal information or take control of the vehicle’s brakes, engine, door locks or autonomous driving functions.

“Many in the semiconductor industry say that automotive safety standards — specifically the ISO 26262 Functional Safety Standard — will have to take security into account in the future,” Morra summarized. “Recalls related to malfunctioning code could be substantially reduced by remotely updating automotive software that control a wide range of technologies. These include windshield wipers, infotainment system, door locks, autonomous driving functions and more.”

That said, Morra closed with a caution. “But without sufficient security, giving vehicles the ability to communicate with each other and the cloud — and giving electronic control units (ECUs) the ability to share the same information — also raises the possibility of vehicle-hacking.”

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