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On the Road to Zero Trust in Transport: Introducing Automotive Ethernet

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On the Road to Zero Trust in Transport: Introducing Automotive Ethernet

As part of our Always On, Always Here campaign, Security Consultant, Liz James, explains how Automotive Ethernet can make connected vehicles safer and more secure.

Around the world, our Transport Assurance Practice works with automotive, maritime, aerospace and rail companies to make connected transport safer and more secure for everyone. As part of this ongoing work, our consultants are constantly researching how new technologies could strengthen the cyber resilience of connected vehicles.

To find out more, we sat down with Security Consultant, Liz James, to discuss how the introduction of ‘Automotive Ethernet’ could help manufacturers to build resilience into their vehicles by providing opportunities to use the concept of ‘Zero Trust’ in their design.

What are the main security risks associated with traditional automotive networks?

Traditional automotive networks are commonly structured in a way that connects all the individual technologies and components within a connected vehicle. On such a shared medium, there is an implicit degree of trust that all the devices on the network are respecting various access control schemes, which prevent unauthorised users from manipulating them.

However, this is not always the case. If devices on the network are ill-configured, they can be infiltrated by hackers and caused to malfunction, cease to operate, or disclose information about the vehicle’s owner. Then, because the devices are connected without individual security protocols like authentication and authorisation, hackers can move across the network to attack other components and cause further disruption.

As automotive manufacturers come under constant pressure to incorporate new technologies into their vehicles, we’ve seen famous examples of the industry being caught out by this widening attack surface. These have included manipulations of tyre pressure monitoring systems and the theft of connected cars through key fob-relay attacks.

What is Automotive Ethernet? How can it mitigate the risks to connected vehicles?

Automotive Ethernet is a new entrant to the various existing technologies that connect vehicular electronics systems together using wires.

In isolation, it does not solve any of the security challenges that are common in traditional networks. Importantly, however, Automotive Ethernet is compatible with other technologies and standards that enable port-based access control to be introduced to a connected vehicle’s network.

Port-based access control is one of many tools that can be used to start reducing the implicit trust in local network devices. This can be achieved because port-based access control enables manufacturers to build individual authentication and authorisation requirements into the devices on the network. Unlike traditional networks, it is assumed that the devices are hostile rather than trusting that they are adhering to an access control scheme.

By facilitating stronger network controls, Automotive Ethernet will also provide more opportunities for manufacturers to build zero trust concepts into their vehicles. Zero trust is a philosophical approach to the design of interconnected systems that is already used in enterprise settings. It has five fundamental assertions that significantly improve a system’s resilience:

  • The network, and devices upon it, are assumed to be hostile.
  • External and internal threats always exist on the network.
  • Network locality is insufficient for determining trust in a network.
  • Every device, user, and network flow needs authentication and authorization.
  • Policies must be dynamic, pro-active and data driven.

Automotive Ethernet’s potential to support zero trust and restrict the impact of a compromised device makes it an easy choice for the next generation of vehicle manufacturing.

How is NCC Group helping to make connected vehicles safer and more secure?

Our work to support manufacturers is aligned with governments’ and industries’ increased focus on providing guidelines and assistance to support the zero trust paradigm.

In addition to collaborating with manufacturers on the design and development of their next generation architectures, which may include Automotive Ethernet, we regularly conduct code reviews, hardware scanning, compliance and strategic planning to help make connected vehicles safer and more secure.



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