Consumers are now choosing cars partly on available electronics. Connected infotainment networks and advanced driver assistance systems have become as competitive as styling, gas consumption, and reliability. Yet at the same time, the addition of these amenities has added numerous entry points for hackers. A few years ago Ford hired a couple hackers to crack a Jeep Cherokee. They were able to take control of the vehicle’s steering and braking systems after entering the car through the infotainment network.

cybersecurity, automotive, MCU, networks, infotainment system
Microchip Technology has developed a kit for Tier 1 auto suppliers that is designed to make commercial vehicles safe from hacking. (Image source: Microsoft Technology)

The threat of hacking is no small concern. Breeches can potentially lead to recalls, lost revenue, and tarnished brand reputations. The question for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their Tier 1 suppliers is no longer whether the vehicle networks need security but how to implement this security practically and without a costly complete design overhaul.

Protecting the Network

In order to address this challenge,  Microchip Technology has created the CryptoAutomotive In-Vehicle Network (IVN) Trust Anchor/Border Security Device (TA/BSD) development kit. The purpose of the kit is to enable OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to introduce security to networked vehicle systems, offering the highest level of protection with the least disruption in the vehicle’s networks.

The CryptoAutomotive TA/BSD was designed for implementation by Tier 1 auto suppliers. “Tier one suppliers are the main kit customer as they are the ones with the pressure to support the new specifications quickly,” Todd Slack, product manager for automotive security products at Microchip Technology, told Design News. “The kit is designed to make it easier for these suppliers to implement new OEM cybersecurity specifications while reducing risk associated with security code development,”

In order to make sure all aspects of the security are effectively in place, Microchip worked with the carmaker’s engineers directly. “Each OEM has a collection of new cybersecurity specifications and they are not easily understood without security expertise,” said Slack. The kit speeds the proof of concept stage by including sample projects for various secure boot and controller area network (CAN) message authentication schemes.”

Meeting Network Specs and Standards

Slack noted that the CryptoAutomotive TA/BSD was designed to be flexible in order to accommodates each OEM’s implementation. Manufacturers can configure the node to conform to various emerging specs and industry standards. “These new requirements represent sweeping changes by pushing hardware secure boot requirements to nodes that previously had no such requirements,” said Slack. “The same can be said for CAN message authentication.  Most OEMs have not required any cryptographic message authentication whatsoever on the CAN bus.  Depending on the OEM, we’re seeing 20 to 100 nodes per vehicle impacted by the new security requirements.”

The tool demonstrates secure key storage, electronic control unit (ECU) authentication, hardware-based crypto accelerators, and other cryptographic elements. When used with a host microcontroller, it enables designers to implement functions such as secure boot and CAN message authentication, including conversion of CAN 2.0 messages to CAN flexible data rate with appended Message Authentication Codes (MAC) when appropriate. “Connecting two or more kits creates a network to formulate meaningful CAN message authentication schemes and can be tied to existing ECU to ensure interoperability across multiple solutions,” said Slack. “A graphical user interface with drop-down menus is included to make the configuration simple, so a developer can create a multitude of different message groups each with easily customizable options for message size, MAC type and freshness values which can be accomplished the first day they open the kit.”

Security Without Disturbing Adjacent MCUs

Microchip provides a comprehensive approach to automotive security. With the companion approach, the TA/BSD emulation kit enables OEMs to continue using their MCUs and, more importantly, existing MCU firmware certified to required safety standards by later adding the companion chip the kit emulates. These companion chips will come to the customer preprogrammed and include built-in security measures to provide true hardware-based key protection. “We have worked closely with OEMs during the specification creation process and provided kits to their engineering teams to support OEM research projects focused on security scheme implementation and interoperability,” said Slack.

The tool can be used with any ECU architecture, configuration, or bus, providing the flexibility to implement security in existing systems without large-scale redesigns. This approach also removes the requirement for in-house security expertise. The tool provides an online graphical user interface program with pre-configured options to simplify and facilitate implementation.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.