Innovation May Be Outpacing Security in Cars

March 16, 2018 // By Mike Pittenger, Black Duck Software
As the UK government’s car cybersec guidelines recognise, innovation may be outpacing security in cars. Automotive OEMs therefore need to adopt a security strategy that goes beyond the obvious.

When you put new technology into cars, you’ll inevitably run into security challenges. For example:

  • When security researchers demonstrated that they could hack a Jeep over the Internet to hijack its brakes and transmission, it posed a security risk serious enough that Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to fix the bug that enabled the attack.
  • For nearly half a decade, millions of GM cars and trucks were vulnerable to a remote exploit that was capable of everything from tracking vehicles, to engaging their brakes at high speed, to disabling brakes altogether.
  • The Tesla Model S’s infotainment system contained a four-year-old vulnerability that could potentially let an attacker conduct a fully remote hack to start the car or cut the motor.

Vehicle manufacturers need to adopt a cybersecurity approach that addresses not only obvious exposures in their car’s software, but also the hidden vulnerabilities that could be introduced by open source components in that software.

Software Used in Autos is Built on a Core of Open Source

Open source use is pervasive across every industry vertical, including the automotive industry. A study conducted in early 2017 by Black Duck’s Center for Open Source Research and Innovation (COSRI) examining findings from the anonymised data of more than 1,000 commercial applications found open source components in 96% of the applications scanned. On average, open source comprised 36% of the code base in these applications.


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