University of Michigan Researchers Identify Potential Security Threats in Autonomous Vehicles

January 8, 2018

A new report released by Mcity, the University of Michigan’s automated vehicle testing facility, looked at multiple security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed before automated vehicles are widely used.

The report, titled “Assessing Risk: Identifying and Analyzing Cybersecurity Threats to Automated Vehicles”, described three hypothetical scenarios to show the risk of security attacks to automated vehicles.

The first scenario discussed involved an automated vehicle disregarding the navigation route, taking the driver to an abandoned road and stopping.

The second scenario features a driver calling their vehicle to come to their location but instead receiving a ransom message demanding $100 bitcoin to be transferred before the vehicle is returned.

And the third scenario entailed a self-driving vehicle refusing to move from the driveway due to it sensing it’s been hacked and choosing to stay at the driver’s home.

While these scenarios may seem unrealistic, they could, in fact, happen based on the vulnerable security systems on automated vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles will be vulnerable to thieves and hackers who regularly break into computer networks or take personal and financial information.

To better understand these potential security risks, Mcity researchers have created the Mcity Threat Identification Model.

The researchers explained that there is also a possibility that a person’s home network could be accessed through the car’s system. Already, three out of four homes in the U.S. will be broken into over the next 20 years. But this new technology could further increase that risk.

“It might seem convenient for an autonomous car that gets within 15 minutes of your home to automatically turn on your furnace or air conditioner, open the garage and unlock your front door,” the researchers explained. “But any hacker who can breach that vehicle system would be able to walk right in and burglarize your home.”

Additional concerns are with the fact that public networks connected with driverless vehicles will also include roadway sensors, traffic signals, cameras, as well as the electrical grid and certain financial networks.

The Mcity team believe funding this kind of research is crucial in discovering fool-proof cybersecurity for autonomous vehicles. And with those cybersecurity measures in place, then the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles will be possible.

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