Security of Connected Vehicles – Part I

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While there could be many definitions of what a connected vehicle is, following is how Wikipedia defines a “connected car”.

“A connected caris a carthat is equipped with Internet access, and usually also with a wireless local area network. This allows the carto share internet access, and hence data, with other devices both inside as well as outside the vehicle.” – Wikipedia

This post is part of a multi-series blog on security of connected vehicles. The focus of this post is describing Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) definition of different levels of autonomy and exploring some stakeholders in the connected vehicle economy.

Is Connected-Vehicles the same as Autonomous?

Connectivity and autonomy are two different concepts. Most of the modern vehicles have some type of connectivity but not necessarily any level of autonomy. In many cases it is a matter of terminology about how people define a connected vehicle. Some may call it intelligent vehicle as well. However, please note that while there is a lot of buzz about “autonomous vehicles” or “self-driving cars”, every connected vehicle may be neither “autonomous” nor “self-driving”. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defined 5 levels of autonomy as shown below (SAE J3016) and connected vehicles may fall into any one of these (or neither).

Autonomy LevelLevel NameDescription
0No AutomationHuman driver is fully responsible for driving vehicle.
1Driver AssistanceComputers assist in steering, acceleration, deceleration
2Partial AutomationComputers have primary responsibility for steering, acceleration, deceleration while humans act as a backup
3Conditional AutomationVehicles drives itself but human driver will respond to request for intervention from the vehicle
4High AutomationVehicle can drive by itself even if human does not respond to request for intervention
5Full AutomationFull autonomous vehicle, can do everything that humans can do under all conditions

Who are the Stakeholders?

There is a perception that vehicle manufacturers are the primary stakeholders in connected vehicles. While they are the key stakeholder, there are many other parties who are involved directly or indirectly as part of the overall connected vehicle ecosystem.

Owners and Drivers – The owners and drivers of connected vehicles are directly involved as they have to understand how these vehicles work and ways to best utilize capabilities of connected vehicles. There is a good likelihood that you are already driving a car with some connectivity, intelligence and autonomy. There are more computers in all modern cars than we usually realize. Even if you are not driving a connected car, people around you on the road may be. You may be traveling and rent a car that is connected and you need to know how it works.

Transportation and Delivery – Many vehicle vendors already have connected vehicles/trucks on the road that are very much connected through telematics systems to measure efficiency of their transportation and delivery operations. A number of truck vendors are working on fully autonomous trucks for delivery with implications on jobs as well as improvement of productivity.

Taxi Business – The Taxi business has been using connected vehicles for quite some time but the new push is towards robo taxy where autonomous taxi service initiatives are under way. Well-known companies like Uber, Lyft, GM and others are working furiously towards this goal. There are many smaller and less-known startup companies in the race as well.

Critical Infrastructure Protection – People responsible for protecting critical infrastructure must be working on initiatives about how to deal with autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.

Food Delivery – Food delivery business is growing and there are a number of companies in the race. If you work in any food business, you should be thinking about how to utilize connected vehicles to improve your business, order taking, delivery scheduling and so on.

Smart Cities and Local Governments – Local governments are fully involved in providing the core infrastructure on which connected vehicles can better operate. This includes, but not limited to, initiatives like intelligent street signs, traffic lights, road sensors to provide data about road conditions, traffic congestions and so on. A compromise of integrity of data can wreak havoc. Information security professionals for city governments and smart city projects should actively work on creating a reliable and secure infrastructure for connected vehicles to be safe.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) – The ISPs are responsible for providing reliable connectivity to vehicles inside and outside of the cities. The demand for data consumed by connected vehicles is increasing, especially when it comes to full connectivity.

Gas Stations and Convenient Stores – Modern autonomous vehicles may show up on a gas station or convenient store without a drive for gas or pick up groceries. Companies in these business should be prepared to provide secure and reliable services to these vehicles. At this point, you have to treat vehicles as people as far as the services are concerned.

Insurance and Underwriting – There are new risk factors (or less risk in some cases) arising from connectivity and autonomy of vehicles. The insurance companies need to factor in the type of connectivity and autonomy in their risk models to come up with reasonable insurance costs. Hacking is a real threat for connected vehicles with strong implications for insurance industry.

Information Security – As alluded to some areas above, the information security professionals have added responsibilities when it comes to this emerging field. First of all, they need to better understand connected vehicles, use cases, threat vectors, and overall risk scenarios. Secondly they need to add vehicle security as part of their policies and procedures. Third, vehicle security, where it makes sense, should become part of security operations centers (SOC).

Federal Government – The federal government agencies must ensure that as autonomous vehicles come on roads, their software features and redundancy of control systems must follow high standards for the safety of other people on the road. A malfunctioning autonomous or semi autonomous vehicle can create significant damage on a road.


The above list is just a sample of who is a stakeholder in the connected vehicle ecosystem. This technology is changing the modern life and has a potential to change even more in coming years as we move to higher levels of autonomy. It is incumbent on the information security professionals to better understand the existing and upcoming technologies to be effective in their role and better enable their businesses.

About Rafeeq Rehman

Consultant, Author, Researcher.
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