Researchers Create Framework to Stop Cyber Attacks

A new study by Maanak Gupta, doctoral candidate at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and Ravi Sandhu, Lutcher Brown Endowed Professor of computer science and founding executive director of the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security (ICS), examines the cybersecurity risks for new generations of smart vehicles, which includes both autonomous and internet-connected cars.

“Driverless and connected cars are increasingly becoming a part of our world, where cybersecurity threats are already a reality,” Sandhu said. “It’s imperative that we support research that addresses these concerns and presents a strong, innovative solution.”

Cars with internet connectivity, also known as “connected cars,” offer potential for many conveniences and innovations. They could allow for real-time and location-sensitive communication between drivers or even pedestrians, which could help make the roads safer for both. The connectivity could also allow the cars to capture safety and environmental conditions around the vehicle, including road obstructions, accidents, which also enables real-time vehicle-to-vehicle interaction on road.

“Connected cars have almost infinite possibilities for creative technological applications,” Gupta said. “Companies could even take advantage of the connectivity to implement location-based marketing tactics, providing drivers with nearby sales and offers.”

However, the researchers caution that as soon as cars are exposed to internet supported functionality, they are also open to the same cybersecurity threats that loom over other electronic devices, such as computers and cell phones. For this reason, Gupta and Sandhu created an authorization framework for connected cars which provides a conceptual overview of various access control decision and enforcement points needed for dynamic and short-lived interaction in smart cars ecosystem.

“There are vulnerabilities in every machine,” said Gupta. “We’re working to make sure someone doesn’t take advantage of those vulnerabilities and turn them into threats. The questions of ‘who do I trust?’ and ‘how do I trust?’ are still to be answered in smart cars.”

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