A team led by Ohio State University Associate Professor Emre Koksal is studying how to protect V2X-equipped vehicles from cyberattacks such as fake messages sent to cars’ wireless interfaces. The team is augmenting traditional cyberencryption methods with MIMO technology to help verify a transmitter’s claimed location, preventing an attack through GPS spoofing.

“Connecting vehicles is a great thing,” said Koksal, “Arguably, the ability to connect vehicles wirelessly is the biggest enabler of autonomous and intelligent transportation systems, which promise many safety benefits. On the other hand, now that a vehicle’s computers are connected, you introduce security issues that can affect the safety of those inside and near the vehicle.”

He added, “When my vehicle receives a signal or a message from another vehicle—for instance a public safety vehicle—how do I know for sure that it is coming from that vehicle and not a hacker?”

The team points out that vulnerability to cyberattacks can impose a heavy financial penalty. In 2015, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles after security researchers working for Wired demonstrated how to control a Jeep Cherokee remotely.

Koksal and graduate student Amr Abdelaziz presented a limited version of thier work at the 2016 IEEE Vehicular Networking Conference last December. In addition to low-mobility security experiments conducted at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, the team recently completed high-speed experiments at university-affiliated Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio.

The researchers see vehicle cybersecurity as “figuratively and literally a moving target,” but Koksal thinks Ohio State is positioned to be a leader in the field.

“We have highly skilled faculty and researchers in communications and networking, we can take that knowledge 30 miles away to the largest independent automotive testing grounds in North America, and we have the support of the university,” Koksal said. “All three of these components combined put us in a unique position at Ohio State.”

Koksal’s research is supported in part by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) and by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Car cybersecurity is a moving target, say Ohio State researchers
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Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.

1 COMMENT

  1. The fact is that ALL connected computers are subject to being hacked. Some are far more secure than others, but all are open to attack. We must keep that in mind as the trade-off for being connected. Of course there are methods available to prevent the hacker from gaining entrance, but those methods greatly reduce the potential abilities afforded by being connected. They also add a small incremental cost of the system. The solution I am describing would have a completely separate computer system connected to the communications hardware, with no connectivity of any kind to the vehicle controls computers. The reality is that there can not exist unhackable software, and so only by physical true isolation can the protection be effective.

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