Do we really want an unsecured connected vehicle?

I read an interesting article about the future of vehicles and their connectivity in the Geo magazine, sort of the German counterpart to the National Geographic magazine. The article was quite interesting; however, I did not find anything about security. This is not a new experience: most of the articles and discussions about the concept of connected vehicles and their integration into the smart grid (plus all the discussions about smart grids and smart infrastructures) still are security-agnostic.

Do we really want to drive unsecured connected vehicles? Do we really want to live in a smart but unsecured world? How smart will that world really be? I have blogged about this way before. In these days of increasing cyber-attacks and of an increased understanding of the risks of critical infrastructures, agnosticism regarding security is not acceptable anymore.

The article discussed concepts like using electric vehicles as a storage for electric power, as sort of a distributed, large battery for storing power from the large power networks. This is a great idea; however, thinking about the required connectivity for that, just in the context of correct billing alone, shows that this is an interesting topic from both the security and the identity perspective.

At EIC 2012, we held a workshop on the topic of the connected vehicle. We had a very intense discussion there. We quickly identified a complex ecosystem of identities that need to share data. However, most data must be shared only between a few selected parties. There are the owner, the driver, the leasing company, the passengers, the garage, the insurance company, the vendor, and the manufacturer, to name just a few of the possible interested parties. Within the car there are components provided by many different manufacturers which might talk to others – or not. There are other cars, there are traffic management systems, there is the police, etc. Not to mention the utilities companies here… It is an extremely complex ecosystem.

Within that ecosystem, sharing of data must be very tightly managed. Some data might pass to the police only, while other data must not go there. However, that might differ from country to country. Some data is only relevant to the driver or the vendor; other data should be also available for the manufacturer.

However, sharing of data is the smaller part of the challenge. The need for well-controlled security and identity becomes even larger when we are talking about controlling the car or the traffic in general. The idea of cyber-criminals taking control of vehicles is frightening.

I know that several car manufacturers are investing in PKI and related technologies to secure communication among various components. That might work for the components within a car, but it will not be sufficient for the bigger ecosystem of the connected vehicle I have outlined above. What we need are bigger concepts, cross-industry, integrating all the related parties and components. The good thing is that many of the answers to the challenges of a connected vehicle are there. Life Management Platforms are one element, which allow managing a lot of related information in a privacy-aware and security-aware manner. The API Economy and API security is important for managing security of all the interfaces in these complex, connected systems. Identity Federation is an important piece of the puzzle as well. However, what I still miss is both a clear view of the big picture and coordinated initiatives for a secure smart planet, including the connected vehicles.

It is past time to act. At EIC 2013, we will have a roundtable for the Automotive Industry – a good place to connect with others. We will have various sessions around Life Management Platforms, the API Economy and other security topics. So do not miss EIC 2013 when you are involved in securing the smart planet of the future and when you are looking for a more holistic approach instead of point solutions for various pieces.


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