Validating a cybersecurity solution for the automotive industry: The Secure-CAV demonstrator platform

Back in September we were able to finally get back into the Systems Security Group labs here at the University of Coventry and start work on building the full-scale Secure-CAV demonstrator. This has meant (finally!) having the team working in one place and having the opportunity to get hands-on with the equipment on daily basis. So, having adapted to a new way of working, we have now had the opportunity to get things underway over the last few months. We now wanted to share an update on how (and why!) the automotive cybersecurity demonstrator has come together.

Let me first take a step back and explain why we are taking the approach we do: Modern vehicles comprise multiple networked computers. These ECUs (Electronic Control Units) enable a wide range of functionality and features in the vehicle, from driving and powertrain control, through to connectivity, sensing and body modules. The ECUs are interconnected through onboard networks, including typically a data bus known as the Controller Area Network (CAN). As such, modern vehicles are an example of a Cyber-Physical System (CPS).

Increased computing and connectivity capabilities in ECUs have introduced new cybersecurity challenges that can potentially affect the safety of an automobile and its occupants. Effective cybersecurity testing of vehicles can play a crucial role in discovering and addressing security flaws; however, testing a real vehicle (involving cyber-physical components) itself carries safety and economic risks. Therefore, researchers and practitioners often rely on testing environments (commonly known as testbeds) for uncovering cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Effective and efficient security testing needs the application of appropriate and systematic testing methods.

We have developed a multi-component testbed representing a flexible and functional in-vehicle architecture for real environment trials to train, test, validate and demonstrate automotive cybersecurity solutions. The ultimate aim of this demonstrator is to reproduce the behaviour of a real vehicle as accurately and faithfully as possible (fidelity), while it needed to be re-configurable, portable, safe, and inexpensive to construct. The testbed allows the cybersecurity researchers and engineers an in-depth security evaluation of in-vehicular network components providing:

  • Integration of Siemens IP in an FPGA implementation for ECU behaviour monitoring
  • Support for multi-component architecture and a range of on-board communication protocols (including CAN and Automotive Ethernet)
  • A ‘plug-and-play’ facility for client ECUs (which may be telematics units, sensors, infotainment systems, in-cabin connectivity, and body modules)
  • A traffic scenario simulator to generate sensor data and connectivity supporting threat use cases being demonstrated
  • Configurability for repeatable test scripts, and an interface for packet injection and tracing, to support attack vectors; and
  • A data repository for data captured from emulated sensors, vehicle simulator, CAN/Automotive Ethernet payload, FPGA and attached ECUs for visualisation, test calibration, and machine learning. The repository could be in-cloud for remote analysis or on local storage.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the developed automotive cybersecurity testbed includes a car simulator, an on-board network simulator, FPGA system, a physical network, data storage and a real car’s instrument cluster. Most of the vehicle architecture and its CAN bus network is realised within a virtual environment using Vector CANoe network simulator.

Figure 1: Demonstrator architecture diagram

The network will be run on a Vector hardware simulator. The hardware simulator expands the testbed’s operational capability to perform real-time simulation. It can be also employed as a middle layer, where an additional physical component requires to be integrated into the testbed. This hardware-in-loop simulation setup creates a realistic framework of physical ECUs talking with each other over a physical bus and with simulated ECUs via the virtual bus.

An FPGA system accommodating the embedded Siemens IP and analytic CPUs and a real car’s instrument cluster will be interfaced by the Vector hardware simulator to form the physical CAN bus network.

Finally, to provide a real driving behaviour, a full set of steering wheel, pedals and gear shifter are all attached to the car simulator.

Figure 2 Demonstrator actual setup

We are looking forward to running the selected use cases and provide you more details about the testing and results soon. Stay tuned!

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