Digital Resilience: a new approach to cyber security for vehicles without boundaries

Digital Resilience: a new approach to cyber security for vehicles without boundaries

Over the last decade, processing power has crossed a critical threshold, enabling communication, sensing and control technologies that potentially make truly automated transport a reality. This could revolutionise ownership models, precipitating fundamental changes in the economics of transport and the urban spaces it operates in, and create a new, global industry projected to be worth £28Bn/yr1.

Further advances in data connectivity provide opportunities for continued refinement of the control and operability of the vehicle. This could profoundly alter the current insurance model, transferring risk and liability from the driver and their insurer to the vehicle manufacturer and automotive supply chain.

In this scenario, the vehicle is no longer an independent mechatronic device where the boundary of two-way communication is the bodywork. Instead, it becomes a component of a wider system, relying on its own sensors and situational information relayed to it to navigate its complex environment. The car is both a network and part of a network.

A series of well-publicised ‘hacks’ by researchers have demonstrated the potential risks associated with connected vehicles. Some hacks have remotely controlled vehicle systems, including engine, steering and brakes. Some have demonstrated hazardous situations. A compromised vehicle has the potential to threaten drivers, passengers, other road-users and pedestrians. Such system compromises could also enable the theft of money, personal data, manufacturer IP and owners’ identities. Such an attack today would undermine the confidence of drivers and consumers, disrupting or delaying the adoption of automated vehicles: it could also severely damage the reputation of any affected brand.

Consumer trust in technology is essential and strengthened through testing and defined metrics. We therefore need a wider concept of digital resilience throughout the transport system, as well as cyber security in discrete subsystems. To achieve this effectively, we need to collaborate across traditional boundaries, combining expertise from automotive system design, information technology and operational technology. This approach will realise the vision of future transport systems that will be resilient: hard to attack and continuing to work safely when attacked.

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