The time when vehicle owners could carry out their own repairs and adjustments has been dwindling for many years as cars and trucks become increasingly computerised. According to the latest estimates, the average car now contains over 100 million lines of code and this is expected to triple by 2030.

As connectivity within a digitalised vehicle environment becomes more common, the potential for cyberattacks on a vehicle’s on-board systems increases, bringing about the possibility of significant disruption, economic loss and even threats to safety.

To counter this, cybersecurity standards for the automotive market (such as UNECE R155, R156 and ISO/SAE 21434) state that manufacturers must operate processes that manage cyber risk throughout the entire supply chain and a vehicle’s whole life cycle.

That means that a vehicle manufacturer is obliged to develop a cybersecurity strategy which states that any modifications to a vehicle’s operating system can only be carried out by a validated source, to a validated end-point, with built-in protection against threats.

Challenges for vehicle manufacturers

This brings various challenges, not least because of the structure of the after-sales vehicle service sector, which includes a large number of small, franchised or independent dealerships which are rarely within the direct control of the original vehicle manufacturer. The main challenge for manufacturers is that they need to find secure ways to track the build status of each individual vehicle they produce, ensuring that only validated electronic control modules are in use, and that every code running in them is as it should be.

To comply with mandated security requirements, all workshop equipment that’s used for the  diagnosis and update of vehicle software elements must be validated and protected against unauthorised or malicious access and modification – and this must be done through a validated and secure path which involves many networks owned by a variety of operators and users.

Of course, these issues are challenging enough around one make and model of vehicle but they are compounded immeasurably taking into account the diverse nature of vehicles from a large number of manufacturers, each with differing needs in terms of what has to be checked and maintained.

Ruggedised system

In the absence of a single, ‘one size fits all’ solution that can satisfy all the requirements of all the cybersecurity standards, vehicle manufacturers need to find some way of ensuring their vehicles are protected.

Such a system would need to be ruggedised, able to operate in environments with large temperature variations, and able to tolerate higher levels of shock and vibration than those that desktop PCs experience. It would also need to be mechanically compact, to keep the size of the final equipment to a minimum, and not present any interfaces (other than those directly used by the application) to minimise potential attacks, with each device securely and uniquely identifiable. Such a solution should also have a pre-installed operating system, built to make use of in-built hardware security features providing, for example, encryption of BIOS, critical firmware, software and data. Finally, there should be support for application whitelisting to prevent the installation and operation of unauthorised software modifications while monitoring critical hardware elements.

In itself, such a solution would need to be capable of being remotely managed, including the ability to securely apply BIOS changes, driver updates, security patches and application software updates. It would need to support the high computing bandwidths required by vehicle data analytics and edge AI-based applications while providing secure cloud connectivity to major enterprise platforms such as MS Azure, Amazon AWS and others.

Connectivity and security options

With its deep knowledge of the hardware, software, connectivity and security elements involved, Advantech was approached by a major European truck and heavy duty vehicle manufacturer that had concerns about how to tackle the issue of cybersecurity. The company was looking to partner with an organisation that could not only provide the compute elements needed in workshop equipment for checking vehicles but also understood the various connectivity and security options and standards.

Based on the security features built into Advantech’s computer hardware and operating systems, the vehicle manufacturer was provided with a solution that did not require extensive customisation. Throughout the process of developing the solution, Advantech was driven by the recognition for it to maximise security while also being practical and versatile, reducing considerably the implementation phase and allowing the vehicle manufacturer to achieve a robust and reliable solution much more quickly than would have been possible using alternative approaches.

Based around Advantech’s MIC-770 modular embedded box PC platform, the hardware was optimised for the application, for example by depopulating unused peripheral connectors. Combining the power of Intel’s 12th generation Core-i processors with seven-year product lifecycles (including revision control procedures), the MIC-770 included support for measures to secure the BIOS, operating system images and to block unauthorised modifications to hardware or installed software.

Advantech’s iBMC, SUSI API and DeviceOn technologies were able to provide remote condition monitoring and device management, checking key computer hardware elements in real time, while also providing a secure method to apply software updates remotely. At the same time,  Advantech’s iBMC allowed out of band remote control of the device, meaning that even if the operating system crashed and the device was not functioning, it would still be possible to access and repair the unit remotely as long as it has power and network connectivity.

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