NHSTA releases connected car automotive cybersecurity guidelines

ntsacybersecurityThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking a proactive safety approach to protect vehicles from malicious cyber-attacks and unauthorized access by releasing proposed guidance for improving motor vehicle cybersecurity.

The proposed cybersecurity guidance focuses on layered solutions to ensure vehicle systems are designed to take appropriate and safe actions, even when an attack is successful. The guidance recommends risk-based prioritized identification and protection of critical vehicle controls and consumers’ personal data. Further, it recommends that companies should consider the full life-cycle of their vehicles and facilitate rapid response and recovery from cybersecurity incidents.

NHTSA’s multilayered approach to cybersecurity has the following goals:

  • Expand and share automotive cybersecurity knowledge base to better establish comprehensive research plans and develop enabling tools for applied research in this area.
  • Help the automotive industry implementation effective, industry-based best practices and voluntary standards for cybersecurity and cybersecurity information-sharing forums.
  • Foster the development of new system solutions for automotive cybersecurity.
  • Determine the feasibility of developing minimum performance requirements for automotive cybersecurity.
  • Gather foundational research data and facts to inform potential future Federal policy and regulatory activities.

Layers of Protection

As mentioned, NHTSA’s research program takes a layered approach to cybersecurity for automobiles. What this means is that we assume all entry points into the vehicle, both wireless and physical, such as Wi-Fi, infotainment, the OBD-II port, and other points of potential access to vehicle electronics, could be potentially vulnerable. This way, NHTSA focuses on solutions to harden the vehicle’s electrical architecture against potential attacks and to ensure vehicle systems take appropriate safe steps even when an attack may be successful. A layered approach to vehicle cybersecurity reduces the probability of success for an attack and mitigates the potential ramifications of a successful intrusion.

At the vehicle level this approach includes the following four main areas:

1.Protective/preventive measures and techniques: These measures, such as isolation of safety-critical control systems networks or encryption, implement hardware and software solutions that lower the likelihood of a successful hack and diminish the potential impact of a successful hack.

2. Real-time intrusion (hacking) detection measures: These measures continually monitor signatures of potential intrusions in the electronic system architecture.

3. Real-time response methods: These measures mitigate the potential adverse effects of a successful hack, preserving the driver’s ability to control the vehicle.

4.Assessment of solutions: This involves methods such as information sharing and analysis of a hack by affected parties, development of a fix, and dissemination of the fix to all relevant stakeholders (such as through an Information Sharing Forum). This layer ensures that once a potential vulnerability or a hacking technique is identified, information about the issue and potential solutions are quickly shared with other stakeholders.

This guidance also highlights the importance of making cybersecurity a top leadership priority for the automotive industry, and suggests that companies should demonstrate it by allocating appropriate and dedicated resources, and enabling seamless and direct communication channels though organizational ranks related to vehicle cybersecurity matters.

In addition to product development, the guidance suggests best practices for researching, investigating, testing and validating cybersecurity measures. NHTSA recommends the industry self-audit and consider vulnerabilities and exploits that may impact their entire supply-chain of operations. The safety agency also recommends employee training to educate the entire automotive workforce on new cybersecurity practices and to share lessons learned with others.

The best practices guidance released today is based on public feedback gathered by NHTSA, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. The proposed guidance follows actions by other entities on motor vehicle cybersecurity, including SAE J3061 Recommended Best Practice: Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical Vehicle Systems and the executive summary to the Automotive Cybersecurity Best Practices issued by the Auto-ISAC in, collaboration with the motor vehicle trade associations, in July 2016. NHTSA’s guidance also suggests that organizations should consider and adopt all applicable industry best practices.

NHTSA is soliciting public comments on the proposed guidance for 30 days. The public can submit feedback by visiting regulations.gov and searching for docket NHTSA-2016-0104.