Cybersecurity: Protecting data in the age of connectivity

Twenty years ago, the only way to access a vehicle’s computer was by manually plugging into it.

Fast forward to 2018 and the technology in your car has far exceeded wild expectations of those days. Your car is a super computer – the largest and most expensive computer you will ever own. Premium vehicles today have more lines of code than a F-35 jet or the code required to run the Android Operating System. 

Additionally, our vehicles are becoming more connected – connected to our phones, connected to other cars (V2V), connected to the infrastructure (V2I) and ultimately connected to everything – Aptiv calls that V2E. And more importantly, a cyber-attack on a vehicle (or fleet of vehicles) connected to the world could be disastrous.

Thinking up these worst case scenarios – and how to prevent them – are all in a day’s work for Aptiv’s cybersecurity team.

Given today’s vehicles are basically supercomputers on wheels, we have to consider the security of these devices and the data they produce – from inception through manufacturing. As we continue to add in software-defined features like infotainment and active safety, the stringent cybersecurity protocols and processes will only increase.

Consider this, in the time it took you to blink just now, your vehicle would have exchanged 15,000 pieces of data. And by 2020, that number jumps to 100,000 pieces of data -- all in the blink of an eye.  

Additionally, high-end vehicles have an average of 20 to 30 microprocessors,  some exceeding 100 microprocessors. And they all have to be connected somehow with a data protocol – a language for sending digital information. As a result, each of these little computers is vulnerable – if your cybersecurity protocols are designed in a traditional vacuum.

Traditional thinking in cybersecurity is to prevent the outside from getting inside. As a company that understands the entire architecture of the vehicle, Aptiv is approaching the challenge from a different angle. 

We are looking at cybersecurity from the inside out.

The key to automotive cybersecurity is to build it into the vehicle’s architecture, controlling the flow of data and minimizing the impact of a possible cyber-attack. Our secure gateways serve as the single-point connectivity hub and not only provide all the computing power necessary to enable high-speed data networking, but also meet the most stringent functional safety and cybersecurity standards in the industry.

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Your vehicle could become an easy access point to your data, which is why cybersecurity is also about protecting the owner's data. Today, an expert with bad intentions could possibly gain access a vehicle’s computer. Well, not if we can help it.

How do we do that? One approach is to build cybersecurity systems into the vehicle’s software, ensuring the data messages being sent to a particular control module are correct. Another technique is to continuously verify that the software itself is not being maliciously changed while the vehicle is operating.

Our secure gateway interface with both wired and wireless connections, and is also responsible for security, data collection and analytics. So if a hacker (or the driver unknowingly) does gain access to places they have no business being, the gateway acts as an independent node on the architecture, and can isolate the hardware and software. This means the vehicle’s functionality won’t be compromised. The features we come to know and depend on could still operate on their own, essentially batten down the hatches and carry on without any input from the outside world. This is the key to securing the vehicle. 

As connectivity increases, so does the need for enhanced security around those connections. That’s why Aptiv is taking a global approach to holistically develop these cybersecurity solutions for our customers and consumers... from the inside out. 

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