Automotive Security Best Practices White Paper

Automotive Security
Best Practices
Recommendations for security and privacy in the era of the next-generation car
Automotive Security Best Practices
Table of Contents
Industry Contributors:
David Clare,
Automotive Technical Lead,
NCC Group
4 Innovation in next-generation cars
5 Automotive Security: Privacy Risks and Vulnerabilities
6 Cybersecurity threat agents, models, and motivations
8 Example use cases
9 Data privacy and anonymity
10 Designing Secure Automotive Systems
11 Distributed security architecture
12 Hardware security
13 Software security
14 Network security
14 Cloud security services
15 Taking Advantage of Security Standards and Best Practices
15 Security development lifecycle
17 Supply chain security
18 Leveraging standards
20 Operating securely for the full lifecycle
21 Open Questions
22 McAfee Resources
Shane Fry,
Security Researcher,
Star Lab Corporation
Helena Handschuh,
Technical Director, Cryptography
Research Division of Rambus
Harsh Patil,
IoT Security Engineer, LG Electronics
Chris Poulin,
Research Strategist, IBM X-Force
Dr. Armin Wasicek,
University of California at Berkeley
Rob Wood,
Global Hardware Lead, NCC Group
McAfee Contributors:
David A Brown
Geoffrey Cooper
Ian Gilvarry
David Grawrock
Anand Rajan
Alan Tatourian
Ramnath Venugopalan
Claire Vishik
David Wheeler
Meiyuan Zhao
Automotive Security Best Practices
Automotive Security Best Practices
Recommendations for security and privacy in the era of the next-generation car
“Remember to lock your car” is no longer sufficient
advice to protect your vehicle. United States Senator
Edward Markey’s Tracking & Hacking report on
gaps in automotive security and privacy, as well as
successful recent attacks on car computer systems
from different manufacturers, are just two reminders
of the increased threat to vehicle safety. Computer
attacks are now a clear and present danger for car
drivers, owners, dealers, manufacturers, and suppliers.
Increased automation, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicleto-infrastructure communications, and advances in
autonomous driving add computer security and data
privacy to reliability and safety as cornerstones for
consumer confidence and continued success in the
automotive industry.
This paper is intended as an informative backgrounder
and starting point for continued discussion and
collaboration. The primary goal is to present the current
state of automotive security, the main concerns, some
use cases, and potential solutions. This is by no means
an exhaustive review. This is the second version,
incorporating comments from a variety of automotive
and security researchers. Further comments are
welcome, and the intent is an ongoing working paper as
part of the Automotive Security Review Board (ASRB).
Automotive Security Best Practices
The ASRB will conduct research and collaborate on
ways to improve automotive security products and
technology, bringing together top security industry
talent from around the world. ASRB researchers will
perform security tests and audits intended to codify
best practices and design recommendations for
advanced cybersecurity solutions and products to
benefit the automobile industry and drivers.
McAfee is part of a large and vibrant ecosystem
delivering components to the automotive industry,
including hardware, software, and security processes
from chip to cloud and from design to driveway. A key
player in the evolution of Internet security, McAfee is a
long-established participant in security, standards, and
threat mitigation. McAfee considers itself fortunate to be
in a unique position to collaborate with the technology,
security, and automotive industries to advance the
analytics, research, standards, and best practices on
secure driving experiences.
Computers have made significant contributions to
vehicle safety, value, and functionality—from stability
control to electronic fuel injection, navigation, and theft
prevention. They have also increased connectivity,
adding many functions common to smartphones, such
as cellular data and voice functionality, web browsers,
online games, and entertainment. But increases in use of
Connect With Us
shared information and in-vehicle communication have
made cars vulnerable to cyberattacks. Each electronic
control unit (ECU) and the increasing array of sensors
they work with must be secured in some shape or form,
whether it is via cooperating or co-processors, code
verification, protection of data at rest and in transit, or
other capabilities that have become common in Internet
security. With vehicles already connecting beyond the
bumper, the risk has increased, and the core challenges
will be establishing and maintaining trust, consumer
confidence, and vehicle safety.
Security Systems
Travel and
Traffic and
Innovation in next-generation cars
By advancing network connectivity in cars, the industry
has enabled innovative functions, some of which are
already available. These new functions are often referred
to as “cyberphysical” features, since almost all of them
require collecting data from the physical environment
and cybersystems, making automotive operation
decisions, and executing on such decisions with physical
consequences. Some of these innovations include:
Advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS): Smart
lighting control, adaptive cruise control, collision
avoidance, driver fatigue detection, lane departure
warning, and parking assist
Advanced fleet management: Usage and behavior
monitoring, warranty restrictions by zone, real-time
telematics, and package tracking
Smart transportation: Traffic congestion, vehicle
sharing, and fuel efficiency are influencing existing
operating modes and creating new ones. Vehicle-toinfrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communications,
Automotive Security Best Practices
Security Systems
City Traffic
Toll System
Figure 1. Ecosystem and infrastructure of the next-generation car.
such as smart intersections, traffic light control, road
trains, and traffic management, are key contributors to
smart city operations.
Autonomous driving: The ultimate goal of the next
generation of vehicles is that driverless cars become
a reality to achieve zero fatalities and/or collisions,
improved traffic flow, and other benefits, with early
examples already visible from Daimler, Ford, Google,
Tesla, and others.
Automotive innovation is driving the need for built-in
security solutions and architectural design to mitigate
emerging threats. The goal for automotive security
products is to ensure that the new vehicle paradigm is
protected and can operate to its full potential, even in a
malicious operating environment.
Automotive Security: Privacy Risks and
Whenever something new connects to the Internet, it
is exposed to the full force of malicious activity. When
something as complex as a modern car or truck is
connected, assessing the scope of threats is an immense
job, and an attack surface may be left unprotected
unintentionally. Many security risks now extend to
vehicles—malware, Trojans, buffer overflow exploits,
and privilege escalation. Let’s look at a few use cases to
illustrate potential threats, describe the attackers, and
explore general approaches to mitigation.
With cars incorporating up to 100 ECUs, they are
approaching the upper boundaries of the wiring
harness, which is one reason the industry is moving
towards greater integration and virtualization, reducing
the total number of ECUs but increasing the number of
functions and complexity of the software. The resulting
attack surface is broad, touching most in-vehicle
systems and an increasingly wide range of external
networks, from Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and the Internet
to service garages, toll roads, drive-through windows,
gas stations, and a rapidly growing list of automotive and
aftermarket applications.
Automotive Security Best Practices
Security for complex systems like these is a collaborative
effort, requiring a holistic approach, with the
involvement and contribution of the supply chain and
the broader ecosystem. Effective security cannot be
achieved by dealing with individual components, threats,
or attack points. Unlike traditional computer systems,
initiation and consequences in both the cyberworld
and the physical world are possible over vehicle attack
surfaces, making it more challenging to protect the
vehicle’s systems.
Link Type
Receiver (V2X)
Passive Keyless
Remote Key
Vehicle Access
System ECU
Steering and
Braking ECU
Engine and
Lighting System ECU
(Interior and Exterior)
Figure 2. Fifteen of the most hackable and exposed attack surfaces on
a next-generation car.
As pointed out by Miller and Valasek,1 the success of
hacking cars depends on three major categories: remote
attack surfaces, cyberphysical features, and in-vehicle
network architectures. They identified more than seven
major categories of remote attack surfaces, based on
their study of 20 recent models (2014 to 2015) from
multiple different car manufacturers. Some, such as the
CAN bus and on-board diagnostics, are designed to be
robust and readily available; you just have to open the
hood and connect to read what is there. Furthermore,
the more advanced systems features a car has, the more
potential attack vectors.
Cybersecurity threat agents, models, and
One of the most important steps in improving security
posture, whether for a physical location or a computer
system, is understanding the motivations, objectives,
and actions of potential attackers or threat agents.
Stronger motivations or more valuable objectives often
translate to greater attack capabilities and higher risks.
There is a typical progression of these actors in a newly
Internet-connected market—from researchers and
pranksters to owners, criminals, and nation-states. In
connected systems, threats can infiltrate from outside
the immediate device—in this case, from attacks,
misbehavior, or failure of transportation infrastructure.
Threat agents are quite diverse, but knowing who they
are and modeling their behavior can help in planning the
most effective mitigation strategies.
Threat information has historically been fragmented and
sensationalized with a lack of standard agent definitions,
which makes it difficult to quickly and consistently
assess risks from specific agents. The McAfee® IT Threat
Assessment Group developed a Threat Agent Library2
and Threat Agent Risk Assessment usage model3 to drive
a standardized reference to human agents that pose
threats to computer systems and other information
Automotive Security Best Practices
Researchers and hobbyists
Researchers and hobbyists, sometimes funded by
universities, government labs, Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), or the target
industry, are typically the first hackers to attempt to
attack a new market or device. Their motivations are
usually positive, and they have considerable time and
access to conduct their research. Research objectives
are often meant to highlight vulnerabilities and exploits
before the market hits critical mass or to demonstrate
their hacking skills. The results are usually freely
shared with others online and via conferences. While
sharing may appear to open the door to pranksters
and criminals, the benefits of open product security
information and corrective action outweigh the risks.
This group also has the important function of keeping
the public informed about security risks in products
and infrastructure and will look for any and all openings
they can think of, but total coverage is restricted by their
numbers and funding.
Pranksters and hacktivists
Pranksters, hacktivists, and vandals typically represent
the dark side of the hobbyist group. They take the
opportunity to demonstrate their skills or promote their
causes, but with negative outcomes for the product
owner or manufacturer. In the automotive market, the
complexity of the product and requirement for special
tools or skills may constrain the number of pranksters
and hacktivists able to actually uncover and exploit
vulnerabilities, at least until the exploits are developed
and made available by criminals or nation-states with
greater resources.
Owners and operators
Many car hacking tools already exist for owners, as they
do for smartphones and other consumer electronics.
These individuals are not criminals, but they may want
to hack their own vehicles for repairs and maintenance
in order to improve performance, remove restrictions
imposed by the manufacturer or government regulator,
or disable components to obfuscate their actions for
private or fraudulent reasons. Since some automotive
systems are safety-critical, tampering or modifications
can also be constrained or controlled with appropriate
security functions, even by owners, ensuring that the
vehicle operates as intended so that the manufacturer is
not subject to additional liability.
Organized crime
Organized crime has always been a threat to vehicles,
and is now a significant threat actor in the cybersecurity
space, and possibly ahead of researchers in their
technical capability. The main motivation for this group
is financial gain, so these malicious actors will be looking
for ways to steal cars more easily, or otherwise separate
drivers and owners from some cash. Cyberthreats often
follow an evolutionary pattern, beginning with denialof-service (DoS), followed by malware, ransomware,
and attacks targeted at specific entities. In this case,
DoS or disabling vehicle functions could be aimed
at specific models, geographic regions, rental car
companies, or other corporate fleets. Malware may
follow a similar pattern, searching for valuable data to
sell or use or tampering with mileage and maintenance
data. Ransomware in this case could involve holding
individual cars for ransom (or even an entire model or
Automotive Security Best Practices
fleet) or disrupting traffic to create havoc for financial or
political gain. In cybersecurity, these tools then became
available to others on a Cybercrime-as-a-Service model,
potentially opening up the automotive market to precise
attacks against individuals, competitors, and politicians,
among others.
The motives of nation-states are not often easy to
determine. The obvious ones are industrial espionage,
surveillance, and economic or physical warfare. Other
motives may be intervention to assist a national
manufacturer against foreign competitors. If cars are
softer targets than corporate or government facilities,
they could enable tracking and audio monitoring of
high-value subjects. As cybercrime matures and code
is shared, sophisticated code developed by well-funded
nation-states finds its way into the hands of criminals
and pranksters, increasing the threats.
Transportation infrastructure
Next-generation cars are not just communicating with
the Internet, they are also talking to each other and to
multiple parts of the transportation infrastructure. In
addition to attacking the vehicle, security and safety
issues can occur through attacks or misbehavior of the
surrounding infrastructure. For example, traffic lights
that are accidentally or intentionally set to be green in
both directions, road trains that allow the cars to be too
close together, or message floods that prevent delivery
of vehicle-to-vehicle data in time to avoid a collision.
Smart vehicles need to be able to safely manage through
these and other scenarios with appropriate preemptive
Example use cases
What do you do when a security issue is detected and
is highly dependent on the potential short- and longterm impact to driver and passenger safety, safety of
pedestrians, safety of others sharing the road, and
the vehicle value? Design for safe failure and incident
response plans covering all stakeholders are a critical
component of successful security operations. There
are multiple stakeholders interested and involved
in the security issue and its outcome, including the
driver, owner, manufacturer, aftermarket providers,
emergency agencies, and security vendors. There is
also no clear answer as to the locus of responsibility for
monitoring the vehicle for security. Does it belong with
the manufacturer, owner, government agency, or an
aftermarket security company?
Owners of computers are painfully familiar with security
patches and software update processes. Interrupting a
drive for a weekly security scan or urgent update is not
realistic, especially since the owner may or may not be
drivers of the vehicle. Forcing a patch at the wrong time
may be dangerous to the vehicle occupants. Processes
will need to be developed to determine when and how
to inform the owner that an update is required, how
and when to enforce the update, and how to deal with
unpatched systems. Memory monitoring and anomaly
warning solutions that model the normal operation of
the vehicle and create a unique fingerprint are possible.
Significant deviation from the model can trigger alerts
and even a safe mode with sufficient but diminished
functions to enable the car to get home.
The safety of the driver, passengers, and bystanders
is obviously the most important consideration when a
vehicle security incident is detected. Determining when
and how a vehicle will fail, deciding when and whether to
update code, and determining which features to disable
for a failsafe mode so that the vehicle and occupants
are protected and can safely get home or to a safe
stop are paramount. Once that is completed, the next
step in incident response is to remediate or correct
the situation: this may be automatic or may require
explicit interaction by the owner and manufacturer. It
is important to remember that vehicles have multiple
drivers, who may not be related or even know each
other in situations like car sharing or rentals.
The vehicle manufacturer needs to gather information
on all security events but can be overwhelmed by the
sheer volume of alerts and the complexity of multiple
tiers of suppliers. Automotive security operations will
need special tools to deal with this volume and correlate
real threats from noise and distinguish legitimate
owner or driver hacks from warranty-voiding ones.
Like other large-scale software update processes, the
automobile maker’s servers will need to be protected
from tampering and disruption, connections must be
secured from the cloud to the vehicle endpoint, and
updates need to be signed, validated, and re-verified
after installation. Over-the-air updates, after appropriate
testing and experience, could improve security response
Automotive Security Best Practices
times and significantly reduce update or recall costs, but
they can also introduce some increased risk.
App stores, aftermarket components, and service shops
are a major source of revenue for the auto industry,
as they are for many consumer electronics. Security
is affected by decisions regarding if, when, and how
to allow these groups to interface with the electronic
vehicle systems. Closed or walled garden systems are
increasing in popularity by computer vendors as they
increase control and reduce risk, but at the risk of
consumer backlash. On the other hand, aftermarket
companies may be the first to identify vulnerabilities or
security breaches, and sharing information throughout
the ecosystem has proven to be an important part of
effective incident response and recovery.
Dealers are often the main interface between the
manufacturer, the aftermarket, and the owners. Before
over-the-air systems are ubiquitous, dealers will provide
essential software patching functions on behalf of
manufacturers. Dealers may also be the interface to
some types of aftermarket software products, as they
are today for roof racks, backup cameras, and other
add-ons. If vehicle security moves towards third-party
security vendors, similar to the way antivirus companies
provide PC security, dealers might have an important
part to play in education, sales, and provisioning of these
Automotive Security Best Practices
Emergency agency
As manufacturers of safety-critical systems, the
automotive industry is subject to regulation and
oversight by various levels of government. When and
how to inform the appropriate agencies of a security
breach or exploit may be regulated or self-imposed, but,
either way, it is an important part of incident response.
Increasing information sharing with national and
international agencies is becoming more common, as
the Internet and threat vectors are largely independent
of national borders.
Security vendor
Security vendors play an interesting role in the
ecosystem of secure computing products. In addition
to supplying components, the leaders have labs and
research teams, working to uncover and protect against
new attacks and vulnerabilities before they become
a significant threat. Sharing threat intelligence with
these companies helps reduce the attack surface,
improve incident response, and contain the spread of
a cyberattack or infection as security vendors rapidly
redistribute the information to other potentially affected
Data privacy and anonymity
Personally identifiable information (PII), such as
location data, address books, and credit card numbers,
is now entering and leaving the confines of the
vehicle, requiring appropriate privacy controls and
anonymization of data. As automakers and third-parties
create a seamless experience and increase the level of
vehicle personalization, cars are becoming an extension
of, or adjunct to, smartphones, home automation
systems, entertainment libraries, and other components
of the digital life, syncing and storing user data.
Data privacy has two aspects: confidentiality of personal
data and leaking of data outside the consumer’s control.
To maintain confidentiality, data needs to be protected
by encryption inside and outside the vehicle while
it is stored, while it is transmitted, and by memory
protection extensions while it is being processed.
Cybercriminals have been known to attack and steal
data in all three locations. This includes not only stored
personal information, such as address books or credit
cards, but also style of driving, current location, previous
destinations, and other metadata. For data leakage,
there is a need to justify what data is stored, secure
storage of data, destruction of data upon consumption,
and protection against unauthorized access to ensure
compliance with information privacy laws.
There are a few steps to improve data privacy. The first is
to minimize the amount of personal data that is stored,
erring on the side of storing too little rather than too
much. The next step is to be transparent about what is
collected, how it is used, and what is stored. Only data
that can be reasonably assumed to be necessary for
the service should be collected without a specific optin function. Finally, drivers and owners should have a
clear way to securely delete any stored personal data or
ensure that it is not saved. This is especially important
in an era of increased vehicle sharing, as well as rentals,
loaners, and other temporary usage scenarios.
Automotive Security Best Practices
Designing Secure Automotive Systems
Now that we have reviewed some potential threats
and vulnerabilities, the next issue is designing secure
automotive systems. While the automotive security field
is relatively recent, there are strong technologies and
expertise in adjacent industries to be leveraged and
adapted. Developers can take advantage of existing
secure development processes to incorporate security
and privacy into their new vehicles by design.
There is a strong relationship between cybersecurity
for automotive safety. SAE has captured this very well in
their J3061 Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical
Vehicle Systems.4 To paraphrase, system safety is
concerned with protecting against harm to life, property,
or the environment. System cybersecurity aims to
prevent financial, operational, privacy, or safety losses.
So all safety critical systems are security critical, but
there may be systems, such as entertainment systems,
that are security critical but not safety critical.
The organizational disciplines that lead to safe and
reliable cars also apply to security. In particular,
safety, reliability, security, and privacy must all start
at the outset of the design phase. To ensure a secure
design, a threat model for the vehicle should anticipate
different kinds of threats and seeks to mitigate them.
While the safety designer is adding in crumple zones,
airbags, proximity detection, and automatic braking
systems, the security designer is also building in layers
of protection, seeking to isolate a threat before it can
affect vehicle operations. The vehicle security architect
has a collection of security tools to choose from—
ranging from encryption of critical or private data to
isolation of software components by function—and can
combine hardware and software functions as needed
to meet cost and performance goals. Perhaps the most
important safeguard, which is different from commercial
computers, is the ability of systems to protect vehicle
operations, as well as data and processes.
distributed security architecture, exhibiting defensein-depth, analogous to the layers of protection analysis
(LOPA) methodology used for safety and risk reduction.
Securing systems from the hardware to the cloud, with
identified best practices and technologies for each
discrete building block, would provide comprehensive,
end-to-end protection.
Software engineering approaches and cycles in the auto
industry have typically been different from corporate
and PC processes, with longer time scales and little or
no update or patching capability. There is a substantial
legacy of control systems and networks on a car, with
each system historically dedicated and independent. At
one time, the complexity of automotive systems might
have been a barrier to entry for hackers, but that is no
longer the case. Hackers are more sophisticated and
may be part of criminal or nation-state groups with
significant skills and funding. In addition, specifications
for most chips and operating systems are readily
available on the Internet due to increased technology
standardization and proliferation. As a result, as vehicle
systems consolidate and interconnect, security design
has to be intentional and proactive. Applying best
known practices and lessons learned in the computer
industry will be helpful as vehicles become increasingly
Realizing these protections in actual vehicle systems
requires coordinated design of multiple security
technologies, such as isolation of safety critical systems,
secure boot, trusted execution environments, tamper
protection, message and device authentication, data
encryption, data anonymization, behavioral monitoring,
anomaly detection, and shared threat intelligence.
Other industries and market segments, such as
defense, aerospace, and industrial machines, provide
opportunities to adapt and cross-pollinate many of the
foundational principles, lessons learned, and processes
developed over the past decades in cybersecurity.
For example, auto manufacturers could implement a
Automotive Security Best Practices
Distributed security architecture
Automotive computer security is a collaborative
approach of defenses to detect, protect, and correct
identifiable or avoidable threats and to protect from
previously unknown or unavoidable ones. With nextgeneration cars, these layers include hardware-based
protection in and around the ECUs, software-based invehicle defenses, network monitoring and enforcement
inside and outside the vehicle, cloud security services,
and appropriate data privacy and anonymity for bumperto-cloud protection. The key tenets of data privacy and
anonymity must be safeguarded while ensuring the
security of the automobile. Users must also be educated
about secure usage of the systems and potential threats.
For example, if they sync their phones to a rental or
shared vehicle, which may copy all of their contacts and
location data, they must remember to disconnect and
delete the data when they return their cars.
Security defense-in-depth consists of three layers:
hardware security modules, hardware services,
and software security services. Hardware security
protects the ECU as a security enabler and enforcer. Its
primary responsibilities are: secure boot to bring the
environment to the initial trusted state, secure storage
of keys, and a trusted execution environment.
Hardware security services build on top of hardware
security and provide fast cryptographic performance,
immutable device identification, message authentication,
and execution isolation.
Hardware security
Hardware security systems are like the physical
protection systems on a car—the engine firewall,
seatbelts, and airbags. They are there to protect the
operating components from intentional or accidental
damage. There is a wide range of hardware security
building blocks available from the computer security
industry that help secure the ECUs and buses. These
Software security services enhance security capabilities
on top of the hardware with network enforcement,
whitelists/blacklists, anomaly detection, cryptographic
services, biometrics, secure over-the-air updates, and
upgrade capabilities, all delivered over the life of the car.
Software and Services
Network enforcement
Cryptographic services
Anomaly detection
Over-the-air updates
Hardware Security Services that Can be Used by Applications
Device identification
Isolated execution
(Message) authentication
Fast cryptographic performance
Hardware Security Building Blocks
Platform boot integrity
and chain of trust
Secure debug
Secure storage
(keys and data)
Tamper detection and protection from
side channel attacks
Figure 3. Defense-in-depth building blocks.
Secure communication
Automotive Security Best Practices
Secure boot and software attestation functions:
Detects tampering with boot loaders and critical
operating system files by checking their digital
signatures and product keys. Invalid files are blocked
from running before they can attack or infect the
system, giving an ECU its trust foundation when
Trusted execution technology, such as the trusted
processor module: Uses cryptographic techniques
to create a unique identifier for each approved
component, enabling an accurate comparison of the
elements of a startup environment against a known
good source and arresting the launch of code that
does not match.
Tamper protection: Encrypts encryption keys,
intellectual property, account credentials, and other
valuable information at compile time and decrypts
only during a small execution window, protecting the
information from reverse engineering and monitoring
for tampering attempts.
Cryptographic acceleration: Offloads encryption
workloads to optimized hardware, improving
cryptographic performance and making it easier
to broadly incorporate symmetric or public key
encryption into applications and communications
Active memory protection: Reduces code
vulnerabilities by embedding pointer-checking
functionality into hardware to prevent buffer overflow
conditions that may be exploited by malicious code.
Device identity directly on the device: Enables
manufacturers to know the unique identity of
every device, enabling secure identification and
preventing unapproved devices from accessing the
manufacturer’s network or systems. Technologies
such as Intel EPID (Enhanced Privacy ID), which may
be built into processors from Intel and others, also
protects anonymity by allowing devices to be verified
as part of a group instead of by their unique identity.
Software security
Automotive networks and control units used to be
difficult for hackers to reach, only accessible by direct
physical contact inside the car.5 Now, a determined
attacker with time and money can break into these
systems with little or no physical access. If automotive
attackers evolve towards larger and more sophisticated
organizations, as Internet attackers have, this may
become the norm.
In addition, the proliferation of ECUs linked by common
protocols has increased the attack surface and has
made vehicles more accessible to attackers. There
are many ECUs with different capabilities in a vehicle.
It is difficult or impossible to add hardware security
capabilities to some of them, so co-operating processors
and software-based security are also needed.
Architectural techniques and software technologies that
can defend the vehicle include:
Automotive Security Best Practices
Secure boot: Works with the hardware to ensure that
the loaded software components are valid to provide a
root of trust for the rest of the system.
Partitioned operating systems: A commonly used
software and hardware combination that isolates
different processes or functions, such as externally
facing functions from those that drive the vehicle,
reducing the complexity of consolidating multiple
systems onto a single ECU. Techniques, including
virtualization and software containers, make it
possible to update or replace individual functions
without affecting overall operation, or mirror functions
for redundancy and fast fail-over.
Authentication: Authentication by a physical key
for unlocking doors and starting the engine is no
longer sufficient and is being augmented by software,
as cars offer personalized services across multiple
functions and profiles. Electronic keys, passwords,
and biometrics need to be managed and authorized
to access personal information, such as identity,
telemetry, locations, and financial transactions.
Similarly, the various ECUs in a vehicle need to
authenticate communication to prevent an attacker
from faking messages or commands.
Enforcement of approved and appropriate
behavior: It is very common for cyberattacks to
try to jump from one system to another or send
messages from a compromised component to an
uncompromised one. Preventing this network activity
is a key to detecting and correcting accidental or
malicious threats. These functions can also prevent
multicar attacks on an entire series of cars or snowball
effects from cascading error propagation.
Network security
With in-vehicle networks carrying a mix of operational
and personally identifiable information—such as
location, navigation history, call history, microphone
recordings—protecting messages and data over the
communication bus is critical for operational security,
privacy, and consumer trust. Common protocols, such
as controller area network (CAN), local interconnect
network (LIN), media-oriented systems transport
(MOST), FlexRay, automotive Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi,
and mobile 5G—and newly proposed protocols, like
dedicated short-range communications (DSRC)—amplify
the threat, as they increase attack vectors. Replacing
unsecured legacy protocols with common protocols
makes it possible to leverage good security techniques
that have been developed in the computer industry.
Security-enhanced ECUs can interact with securityenhanced networking protocols (in-vehicle or external)
to enhance authenticity, reliability, and integrity of the
transmitted data. Hardware-assisted technologies that
help to secure networks without significantly impeding
performance, latency, or real-time response include:
Automotive Security Best Practices
Message and device authentication: Verifies that
communications are coming from an approved source
and protects authentications from being spoofed or
recorded and replayed.
Enforcement of predictably holistic behavior of
all systems: Restricts network communications to
predefined normal behavior and constrains abnormal
types or volumes of messages so that they do not
impair the vehicle’s functions.
Access controls: Explicitly permit communications
and messages only between pre-approved systems
and sensors, block unapproved and inappropriate
messages, and alert security systems about any invalid
attempts. Manufacturers, maintenance organizations,
owners, drivers, and even police and insurance
companies will have different access rights to the car’s
information systems that need to be authorized and
Cloud security services
While embedded vehicle security is essential, some
additional security services require real-time intelligence
and updates, so the systems need to be able to connect
to cloud-based security services in order to detect and
correct threats before they get to the car. These include:
Secure authenticated channel to the cloud:
Leverages hardware-assisted cryptography for
remote monitoring, software updates, and other
communications. Data protection technology secures
data throughout the transaction.
Remote monitoring of vehicle activity: Includes
appropriate privacy constraints to help detect
anomalous behavior and misbehaving vehicles and
filter out and remove malware.
Threat intelligence exchanges: Collaboration among
dealers, manufacturers, and government agencies
to quickly propagate warnings and remediation of
zero-day exploits and new malware to the vehicle,
containing the spread of an attack and retroactively
identifying and correcting previously infected ones.
Over-the-air updates: Used for firmware (FOTA)
and software (SOTA) updates and work well for
smartphones and other consumer and business
electronics. With appropriate user controls and safety
precautions, these are vital to get systems updated
quickly when a breach or vulnerability is discovered
and substantially reduce the cost of recalls.
Credential management: The online component of
vehicle, owner, and driver authentication, providing
easy and secure management of user profiles and
account information, federated identities, and
associated cryptographic keys and services. Security
of credentials is critical to data privacy.
Taking Advantage of Security Standards and
Best Practices
Standards and industry best practices, developed in
automotive and related fields, can contribute to more
secure automotive environments. Automotive and
cybersecurity ecosystems need to engage in discussion
and development of best practices for designing,
developing, and deploying security solutions. The two
Automotive Security Best Practices
systems need to understand the difference between
safety and security. Automotive safety is a probabilistic
science with measured and identified risks and
components built to mitigate those risks. Production
practices and repair practices give customers confidence
that the safety mechanisms are in place and operating
correctly. Computer security is not probabilistic. Threats
come from a variety of sources, including intentionally
malicious and unintentionally malignant. The goal of
security therefore is to mitigate threats both before they
occur and after they happen. The security landscape
has to mitigate these threats over the entire lifecycle
of the product, from early design decisions through
manufacturing to operation and decommissioning.
Security development lifecycle
A security development lifecycle (SDL) is a framework
that allows the product developer to deal with the
identification of appropriate threats, use mechanisms
to mitigate the threats, implement processes to
manufacture the product, understand how to handle
exploits in the field, and fold in learnings for future
products. Vehicle development is no different, and
hence the use of a defined SDL can greatly enhance
the threats mitigated and ability to inform users
and customers of the product security goals. SDL
frameworks, such as ISO/IEC 27034, define the control
points that help ensure that development, testing,
manufacturing, delivery, and operation all properly
combine to mitigate the identified threats.
The SDL focuses on two main issues: identification
of product threats and assurance of proper product
creation. If the product developer is unable to prove a
negative, which affirms that there is nothing “bad” in the
product, the developer must point to adherence to their
SDL process to provide confidence that the product
delivered follows the product design. These processes
include architectural reviews, coding standards, code
reviews, internal and external functional validation,
internal and external security testing, and component
and system-level penetration testing. The exact mix of
all of these processes will be product specific and in
line with the identified threats. The SDL process should
include various checkpoints, where the assumptions and
threats undergo a review to ensure that the product is
still meeting the needs of a changing environment.
One definition of a secure product is that the product
does exactly what the design says, no more and no
less. Testing for doing less is functional testing: the
product performs the identified function, or it does not.
Testing for doing more is security testing. When there is
additional functionality that is not in the design, it may
or may not work correctly. At the very least, additional
functionality represents an attack surface that malicious
entities may take advantage of. The security validation
strategy, therefore, is an attempt to find those additional
functionalities. The strategy will involve reviews, defined
tests, and penetration testing.
Known vulnerabilities represent threats successfully
exploited in the past. Known vulnerabilities include such
items as buffer overflows, side channel analysis, and a
host of others. Developers should include in their testing
strategies tools that help identify the presence of known
Automotive Security Best Practices
vulnerabilities. These tools include fuzzing and glitching,
along with various compiler options. Vehicle-specific
vulnerabilities, along with attack behaviors, are the focus
of SAE J3061, which a developer must take into account.
Product-specific vulnerabilities discovered by the team
or from experiences with shipping products should
help drive the testing strategies for the next or related
versions of the product.
Most SDL frameworks include privacy considerations.
The SDL process, with its identification of assets, is a
natural process to deal with potential privacy issues.
The privacy reviews, therefore, become an integral
component of the full SDL process.
The SDL depends on an accurate reflection of the
current threat landscape. Failure to mitigate known
threats leaves the product vulnerable the minute
it ships. The coordination of known vulnerabilities
is a process globally coordinated by the Computer
Emergency Response Teams (CERT) on both national
and industry boundaries. As the products in use by the
vehicle are likely generic, knowledge of the complete
threat landscape is critical for the vehicle developer. The
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in collaboration
with global automakers, established the Information
Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) to serve as a central
hub for intelligence and analysis. By providing timely
sharing of cyberthreat information relative to vehicle
electronics and software, the ISAC will assist developers
in responding to the changing threat landscape.
Supply chain security
No electronic product today is created by a single
company. Hardware and software components,
development tools, manufacturing, product assembly,
and verification testing may all be provided by one or
more suppliers. Counterfeiting of electronic parts and
components is a big problem in the automotive industry,
with significant product security implications. Supplier
quality engineers are a common role in the automotive
industry, and supplier security engineers may soon join
their ranks. Cost of security will likely join cost of quality
in the decision-making process.
Detecting and avoiding infiltration of tainted or
counterfeit parts is necessary to maintain the trust and
integrity of the security architecture. More specifically, it
is necessary to prevent well-funded criminal or nationstate groups from gaining physical access to hardware
used in the car. Known best practices to protect supply
chains include:
Authorized distribution channels: Used for
procurement of all hardware and software used to
build and maintain the car.
Track and trace: Detects critical components and
parts involved with security and safety systems.
Continuity of supply: Plans for spares and
maintenance parts, and includes a long-term parts
availability policy.
Suppliers should follow secure development processes
or have SDL details mandated in their contracts that
need to be audited and verified at appropriate intervals.
Automotive Security Best Practices
Supply chain risk management encompasses both the
inbound and outbound supply chains. The four distinct
operations include:
Inbound functional descriptions: The logical design
Inbound materials: The physical ingredients and
functions used to make the ICs
Manufacturing processes: Risks arising during the
manufacturing process
Outbound finished goods: Outbound risks, including
freight theft, tampering, false description, product
substitution, and counterfeiting
Inbound Functional
Limit Access;
Tamper Detection
Finished Goods
Yield Monitoring;
Service Key Provisioning
Inbound Materials
Figure 4. Supply chain risk management.
From a cybersecurity point of view, each operational
area has different priorities with distinct risk mitigation
controls. The primary inbound threat of tainted
or counterfeit materials is mitigated by rigorous
tracking of when and where each batch of material
is consumed during manufacturing. Correlating yield
and performance measurements with batch identity
will detect unauthorized substitution of ingredients
that impact yield. Inbound functional descriptions are
protected as part of the security development lifecycle.
Manufacturing processes for integrated circuits are
protected by the combination of yield and performance
monitoring, and the conversion of functional
descriptions into wafer mask sets. Attacks through
the manufacturing process are difficult, prompting
adversaries to look for the weakest links, which may
be the software development tools and provisioning
of encryption keys. In the development stage, the
lower level the tool, the more access it typically has,
and many tools hold all of the necessary passwords
in the software to make work faster and easier for
engineers. If you can get ahold of the lowest level tool,
you can break into almost anything. Key provisioning is
another vulnerability; if you can capture the keys, you
have privileged access without affecting the product in
a detectable way. These keys must be protected and
inserted securely, with appropriate key hierarchies,
delegation of appropriate rights to different groups, and
two-step key provisioning, one at the fabrication location
and one at the assembly plant.
Cloning of integrated circuits (ICs) is an emerging
attack that was reported in detail at the 2015 “Surface
Mount Technology Association/Center for Advanced
Life Cycle Engineering” workshop on mitigating risk of
counterfeit electronic parts. Cloned ICs enable injection
of malicious functions into an apparently trustworthy
part. Cloned parts are difficult to detect using only
visual and electrical testing. If the incoming inspection
Automotive Security Best Practices
is only looking for expected and documented functions,
a cloned IC that implements more than the expected
functions will not be detected.
Outbound finished goods are also at risk of theft and
counterfeiting. Protocols that limit unauthorized physical
access to finished goods and technologies that detect
tampering or modification of device identity are the
dominant outbound risk mitigation controls.
Each operational area should do ongoing risk
assessments independently from the others and
implement controls appropriate to local operations.
However, it is recommended that each area also invite
peer reviews by representatives from other operations
to enable coordination among functions and to promote
sharing of best practices.
Leveraging standards
The point of standardization is for the developer to show
compliance to the standard. The belief is that when
a product follows the standard, particular properties
are present. Security, and vehicle security in particular,
is no different from any other industry—there are
many standards from a wide range of providers. A very
incomplete list would include International Standards
Organization (ISO), International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC), Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers (IEEE), Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF), Trusted Computing Group (TCG), Society of
Automotive Engineers International (SAE), MISRA C, and
CERT C. In addition to the global standards, there are
numerous country-specific standards and regulations.
Not surprisingly, with so many different organizations
creating standards, some of the standards overlap. The
overlaps sometimes are complementary, and sometimes
they are in conflict. A vehicle developer will need to
make conscious decisions as to what standards they will
prioritize over others when conflicts are present.
Some of the standards that SAE International is working
on or has published include:
While vehicle development forces a merger of security
and safety, many of the standards cross industry and
device boundaries. For instance, the standards that
relate to the SDL are applicable to all industries and
not just vehicle development. To illustrate the gamut
of standards, the following lists show the depth and
breadth of available standards.
ISO 12207: Systems and software engineering –
Software life cycle processes
ISO 15408: Evaluation criteria for IT security
ISO 26262: Functional safety for road vehicles
ISO 27001: Information Security Management System
ISO 27002: Code of Practice – Security
ISO/IEC 9797-1: Security techniques – Message
Authentication Codes
ISO/IEC 11889: Trusted Platform Module
ISO 27018: Code of Practice – Handling PII / SPI
ISO 27034: Application security techniques
ISO 29101: Privacy architecture framework
ISO 29119: Software testing standard
IEC 62443: Industrial Network and System Security
Automotive Security Best Practices
J3061: Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical
Vehicle Systems
J3101: Requirements for Hardware-Protected Security
for Ground Vehicle Applications
Examples of other industry and government security
initiatives include:
The partial list of ISO/IEC standards includes:
J2945: Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC)
Minimum Performance Requirements
E-safety Vehicle Intrusion Protected Applications
(EVITA): Co-funded by the European Commission, it
is an architecture for secure on-board automotive
networks, with a focus on protecting components
from compromise due to tampering or other faults.
Trusted Platform Module (TPM): Written by the TCG
and standardized as ISO/IEC 11889, it defines roots of
trust that enable many of the key attestation activities
that are mandatory on a vehicle. The TCG recently
released a TPM specification focusing on secure
automotive data and operations.
Global Platform: A member-driven association,
this group defines and develops specifications for
secure deployment and management of secure chip
Secure Hardware Extensions (SHE): From the
German OEM consortium Hersteller Initiative Software
(HIS), these on-chip extensions provide a set of
cryptographic services to the application layer and
isolate the keys.
While the previous list is quite large, it barely covers
the range of available standards and specifications.
Additional industries, while not directly related
to automotive, are also creating standards and
specifications that can assist the vehicle developer.
These industries include military, aerospace, aviation,
and critical infrastructure. One example is the US Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), which recently developed
an advisory circular that provides advice for airlines
implementing cybersecurity for their e-enabled aircraft.
Given the wide variety of these standards and
regulations, it is impossible to choose a single
canonical set that meets the needs of every product.
The developer needs to identify the target market
and determine the prioritization of the standards in
that market. After determining the prioritization, the
developer will then have to rationalize any conflicting
Operating securely for the full lifecycle
While robust vehicle security starts at the beginning of
the design phase, the entire vehicle lifecycle requires
security thought and actions. Design, implementation,
manufacturing, distribution, operation, maintenance,
recovery, and retirement all require attention to security
issues. Attackers can and will attempt to modify vehicle
hardware and software at every phase of this lifecycle.
The security of the system must also anticipate that
owners, maintainers, and users may all perform
operations that were unanticipated in the original
security design. Resilience on the security operations
and the ability to recover from loss of hardware or
Automotive Security Best Practices
software integrity are crucial aspects of the vehicle
It is likely, due to Right to Repair acts and other types
of legislation and industry activities, that the methods
in use to secure vehicle hardware and software will
be widely known. It is a long-held security principle
that the attacker knows your mechanism. In light of
this, it is imperative that vehicle security depends
on cryptography with appropriate key sizes. The
provisioning of the key material must be a supply chain
consideration, along with potential recovery mechanisms
in the event of key material compromise.
Cryptographic key strength in light of the expected 15year vehicle lifetime will require deep security analysis.
The expectation that the key material will remain
confidential over the 15-year period, with multiple
vehicle owners and numerous trips for maintenance, is a
driver for a conservative approach to key size.
It is inevitable that over a 15-year lifetime there will be a
need to recover from an attack or other loss of integrity
with the vehicle software and hardware. The recovery
mechanisms must engender customer trust and
confidence such that recovery is possible in any lifecycle
phase. The vehicle provider anticipation includes the
creation of detailed incident response plans in the event
of a loss of vehicle integrity. It is critical to note that loss
of vehicle integrity is not just a result of active malicious
activity, but can also occur through natural disasters,
mistakes in the supply chain, errors in hardware and
software, and an unlimited number of other sources. It
is not possible that the security analysis done today will
anticipate new types of attacks and techniques that will
be possible in 15 years. Therefore, the vehicle recovery
mechanisms must be inherent in the vehicle design and
not added on just prior to shipment.
Another inevitability over the 15-year lifetime is the need
to replace vehicle parts. The ability to maintain a security
boundary, when adding new parts is a crucial aspect
of the recovery mechanism. Not all parts will directly
affect the security functionality, but the customer has to
have confidence that changing brake pads will not affect
the security of the vehicle. Maintaining the software,
both functional and security focused, is a new lifecycle
challenge. One of longest supported software products
was Microsoft Windows XP with support ending after
12 and half years. In that period there were more than
100 updates, or, on average, about one per month.
This update frequency is vastly different from most
car maintenance interactions. The ability to update
the software, through some public network, further
drives the need for secure maintenance and recovery
mechanisms. It is likely that the incident response plans
will require mechanisms to respond, potentially in a
matter of hours or days, to an active threat.
Also inherent in the security mechanisms will be the
security policies to deal with jail breaking, removal
of tamper protections, forcing upgrades, preventing
downgrades, and controlling or limiting owner and driver
modifications. The security mechanisms must have the
ability to enforce the policies along with provisions to
update securely the policies.
Automotive Security Best Practices
Open Questions
This paper has some of the security and privacy issues
in the next-generation car and has demonstrated that a
potential recipe for success includes:
Protecting every ECU, even for tiny sensors
Protecting functions that require multi-ECU
interactions and data exchange
Protecting data in/out of vehicular systems
Protecting privacy of personal information
Integrating safety, security, and usability goals
Dealing with the full lifecycle of vehicular and
transportation systems
There are many open questions in this field. In the
future, cars may not get a “Check Security” light or
“Hack Test Rating.” An “Update Software” light may well
be a future reality. McAfee has established technology
leadership in all these areas and is actively engaging with
standards organizations and ecosystems to address
unique challenges for next-generation vehicles.
Best practices for automotive security are an evolution
and amalgamation of both product safety and computer
security. Together, industry leaders McAfee and Wind
River supply many of the key security ingredients for
the automotive industry. This puts the companies in
an excellent position to collaborate with all parties to
research, develop, and enhance products, services, and
best practices for a more secure driving experience.
Together, the goals of trusted vehicles, secure cars, and
a confident user experience are achievable.
Comments on this document and related issues are
welcome and encouraged and will be incorporated into
future versions.
For additional information on standards activities at
McAfee, see:
McAfee Resources
McAfee is involved in the development and
implementation of computing and consumer electronics
standards and works with more than 250 standards
and industry groups worldwide to pursue the latest
technological advances, including industry alliances,
regional standards organizations, international industry
standards groups and formal international standards
Enabling a Global Infrastructure for Products and
McAfee Standards—Computing and Consumer
Electronics Standards
Technology Standards—McAfee National and
International Standards
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2. Casey, T. Threat agent library helps identify security risks. https://
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Intel Corp. 2009
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K. Koscher, A. Czeskis, F. Roesner, and T. Kohno. 2011. Comprehensive
experimental analyses of automotive attack surfaces. In Proceedings of the
20th USENIX conference on Security (SEC’11). USENIX Association, Berkeley,
CA, USA, 6-6.
Automotive Security Best Practices
About McAfee
McAfee is one of the world’s leading independent
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Automotive Security Best Practices
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JUNE 2016