Automotive IoT: Use Cases & Security

Automotive IoT

The global automotive IoT market size was valued at USD 82.7 billion in 2021 but is projected to surpass around USD 621.8 billion by 2030. In other words, IoT is massively disrupting the automotive sector, and this trend will persist as automakers look for innovative ways to set themselves apart in a fiercely competitive market. Connected cars, telematics, fleet management, and autonomous vehicles are just a few examples of how IoT is revolutionizing how we drive and maintain vehicles.

However, while these advancements offer many benefits, they also pose significant security challenges. With this in mind, let’s explore the use cases of Automotive IoT and the challenges of Automotive IoT security. By understanding the potential of IoT and its associated risks, we can better prepare ourselves for a more connected and secure future.

IoT in the Automotive Industry: Leading Use Cases

Car manufacturers and buyers alike can now harness IoT for a wide range of industrial and commercial applications. Let’s look at some prominent IoT applications in the automotive industry.

Fleet Management

IoT has transformed the way fleet managers track and manage their vehicles. Real-time GPS tracking and data analytics allow for better decision-making, reduced costs, and fleet operation optimization. Fleet managers can track vehicles in real-time, monitor driver behavior, optimize routes, and predict maintenance needs, all of which help reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Connected Cars

Automotive IoT has ushered in a new era of smart, connected cars. With Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (CV2X) technology, vehicles can establish four types of connections: Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P), and Vehicle-to-Network (V2N). By communicating with other vehicles, pedestrians, and the environment, these internet-connected cars can share critical data to prevent accidents and facilitate emergency vehicle movement. In addition, these connected cars also inform drivers of weather conditions and accidents on the road.

Automotive Maintenance Systems

IoT-powered automotive maintenance systems allow for predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and costs. For example, sensors in the car can detect when a part is about to fail, alerting the driver or the service center in advance. This allows for proactive repairs and maintenance, reducing the risk of breakdowns and improving the overall lifespan of the vehicle.

Autonomous Vehicles

There are no autonomous vehicles without IoT. For vehicles to operate safely without human intervention (or with limited human input), they need to be in constant communication with their environments. Self-driving cars can reduce accidents, improve traffic flow, and reduce emissions. They do this by relying on a network of sensors and data analytics to operate safely and efficiently. In other words, they rely on automotive IoT.

Smart Parking

IoT-powered smart parking systems allow for real-time monitoring and management of parking spaces. As a result, drivers can be directed to available spaces, reducing the time spent searching for parking and reducing congestion. Smart parking systems also allow for automated payment, reducing the need for physical payment and the risk of fraud.

In-vehicle Infotainment and Telematics

IoT-powered in-vehicle infotainment and telematics systems offer various features and benefits, including entertainment, communication, and safety. Drivers can access real-time traffic updates, weather information, and entertainment options such as streaming music and video. In addition, telematics systems allow for remote diagnostics, vehicle tracking, and emergency response services in case of an accident. For example, in-vehicle telematics systems can communicate driver information to auto insurers or police following an accident.

Automotive IoT Security

It’s no secret that IoT devices suffer from significant security vulnerabilities, and automotive IoT is no exception here. Unfortunately, many of these devices are not designed with security in mind, leaving them open to exploitation by malicious actors.

But why exactly are automotive IoT devices so insecure? IoT devices are often small and have limited storage, meaning they lack the necessary computing power to run complex security protocols. This constraint often results in trade-offs between functionality, cost, and security, leading to devices prioritizing functionality over robust security.

And more specifically, IoT devices suffer from a range of other issues that make them vulnerable to cyberattacks, including:

  • Weak passwords & settings: IoT devices are often shipped with weak or default passwords that are easily guessable or can be found online. This makes it easy for attackers to gain access to the device and compromise the network.
  • Outdated firmware: Many IoT devices rely on third-party software libraries that can become outdated, leaving the device vulnerable to known security flaws. In some cases, it’s not possible to update this firmware.
  • Poor native device security: Some manufacturers prioritize features and functionality over security, leaving IoT devices with weak security features. Some devices may use insecure protocols or have default settings that leave them vulnerable to attack. For example, when a device communicates in plain text, all transmitted information can easily be intercepted via a Man-in-the-Middle attack.
  • Lack of standardization and regulation: IoT devices come in various shapes and sizes, with varying levels of security features, and there is no universal standard for automotive IoT security. Additionally, regulations and laws around IoT security are still evolving, making it challenging to hold manufacturers accountable for insecure devices.
  • Physical access: Unlike traditional computing devices, IoT devices are often physically accessible to attackers, making them easier to compromise.
  • Interconnectedness: IoT devices are often interconnected and communicate with each other, creating a large attack surface and making it challenging to secure the entire network.

Crucially, while other IoT devices like connected speakers or washing machines may have fewer security features, their privacy and safety risks are relatively low compared to automotive IoT devices. In contrast, if cybercriminals hack a car, they can access sensitive location and destination data and potentially manipulate essential functions like braking or steering, posing a significantly higher risk to drivers and passengers.

Combating Automotive IoT Attacks

Despite the security challenges IoT devices face, cost-effective solutions are available to help prevent attacks.

Firstly, requiring a Trusted Computing Base (TCB) can bolster network and application security. A TCB is a set of hardware and software components that work together to enforce security policies. And we can use it to protect sensitive data and ensure that only authorized applications are running.

Secondly, ensuring that all network communications are confidential and have integrity is crucial for securing IoT devices. Manufacturers can use encryption to protect data in transit and prevent attackers from intercepting sensitive information.

Thirdly, restricting application behavior can also help mitigate security risks. This can be achieved by limiting the access that applications have to sensitive data, such as geolocation information or device identifiers.

Finally, enforcing tamper resistance can make it more difficult for attackers to compromise IoT devices. For example, using hardware-based security features, such as secure boot and trusted platform modules (TPMs), can help prevent unauthorized access and tampering.

Overall, implementing these measures can help improve the security of IoT devices and reduce the risk of harmful cyber attacks.

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