Oct 19, 2018

AV diagnostic systems needed for road safety but easy to hack

A mechanic working with a car diagnostic system. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Under current regulations, vehicles must allow connection to their diagnostic systems for analysis and repair. This access point is crucial for ensuring that both conventional and future self-driving cars are safe on the road, yet it is vulnerable to hacking by physical and wireless intrusions.

Why it matters: Autonomous vehicles are highly dependent on networked component controllers that enable different parts of the car to communicate. This means that a security breach could open up even more operational controls in an AV, including safety-critical functions. Despite these risks, there are still no rules in place to mitigate this significant security vulnerability.

Details: On-board diagnostic (OBD) technology connects automotive electronic control units (ECUs) — which manage throttle, steering, lights, brakes and more — to the Controller Area Network (CAN) data bus. It also allows service technicians to connect diagnostic equipment to assess the car’s pollution controls, sensors, safety-critical ECUs and other components.

What’s new: In hands-free driver assistance systems and other AV technology, virtually all the components controlled by the CAN bus are needed to assure operational safety. Tesla uses the CAN bus to implement its autopilot system and Waymo uses it in its AV control architecture.

Yes, but: These components are ripe targets for hacking.

  • A $10 Arduino computer that’s the size of a postage stamp could be surreptitiously installed in moments, creating an unpatchable vulnerability.
  • Entertainment systems and other wireless-enabled components, like those Tesla uses for over-the-air software updates, can also be hacked.
  • If compromised, the CAN bus could transmit commands from a malicious party that would take control of the car’s speed, steering or braking.

What to watch: While AVs may be new, the idea of addressing the broad scope of cyber vulnerabilities is not. The aviation sector has taken on these risks through both government and industry standards, and has employed countermeasures that could serve as models for AVs:

  • Network isolation
  • Multi-factor authentication of software updates or network traffic
  • Strong encryption
  • Alternative secure internal network architectures

The bottom line: The CAN bus is likely to be integral to AV technology for multiple generations, so it will be essential to devise rules to cyber-secure these inherently vulnerable access points while preserving their original purpose.

Jason Levine is executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy