Tuesday 13 September 2016

Cybersecurity Student Researches How to Keep Cars Safe from Hacking


Smart Cars Susceptible to Cyber-Attacks

In 2015, a Jeep Cherokee driven by a reporter had documented how two researchers had hacked it and controlled everything from the radio and the media console of the car to its brakes and steering. For an associate professor of computer science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Dr Shucheng Yu, the application demonstrated how susceptible smart cars, featuring GPS, Bluetooth and internet connections, are to cyber-attacks.

Yu remarked that these cars have become the trend of the future and there could be some very severe consequences if someone tends to hack into the car. A car can be completely controlled by the hacker if it is not secure.

Hence Yu together with his student Zachary King, a junior majoring in computer science at UALR, did some researching during summer on keeping cars safe from cyber-attacks. They operated on the project all through a rigorous eight weeks summer research program at UALR. King had been one out of the 10 college students from across the country who had been recruited through a National Science Foundation grant-funded project. `REU Site – CyberSAFE@UALR – Cyber Security and Forensics Research at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’

Investigating & Securing Communication – Controller Area Network – CAN

According to Dr Mengjun Xie, an associate professor of computer science and director of the CyberSAFE@UALR program, the purpose of the program is to reduce cyber-attacks on individuals utilising mobile technology and social networking sites.

He states that the simple idea is to integrate cyber-security and cyber forensics research with the latest technology in mobile cloud computer together with social media in order to offer research opportunities to students. Over 130 students had applied for 10 spots wherein participants comprising of undergraduate college students with a grade point average of 3.0 or more who had been majoring in computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering math or physics.

The selected student had to spend eight weeks conducting full time research with a faculty mentor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where the participants had received a $4,000 stipend, for on-campus housing, travel expenses and a meal plan. King, in his project, `Investigating and Securing Communications in the Controller Area Network – CAN, developed a security protocol in order to secure smart cars from being hacked.

Layer of Security – Safeguards CAN

Moreover he also built an experimental environment which tends to mimic the communication system in a smart car that tends to permit the security procedure to be verified through imitations.The research centres on the development of a security procedure to defend the Controller Area Network – CAN, which is an internal communication structure in vehicles.

King informs that there are several ways which hacker could control CAN. Once they gain access to it, they can control your car the way they want to. King tends to propose a layer of security wherein if an unauthorized person attempts to access it, they would not be able to control the vehicle. The security procedure safeguards the CAN in a couple of ways.

 It validates messages sent through the network by developing a validation code which enables nodes on the network to distinguish between a valid message and an assailant’s message. The second security feature shields against replay attacks whenever a hacker tries to breach the network by sending old messages repeatedly. The modus operandi utilises a timestamp in calculating when the network received the message last and verifies the freshness of the message.

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