Securing Vehicles to Safeguard Transportation Infrastructure

May 2019
Topics: Transportation, Cybersecurity, Maritime Operations
Cars, boats, and other methods of transportation are becoming increasingly connected, but that means more and more ways for bad actors to compromise vital systems. MITRE is innovating to reduce vulnerabilities.
Car driving with binary code surrounding it

Researchers at MITRE are working to decrease the vulnerability of vehicles and ensure resiliency to make transportation and critical infrastructure safer. The company has filed for multiple patents, including innovations in securing internal vehicle systems and requiring a second method of authentication for keyless entry systems.

"It's not a car with a computer, it's a computer with a car attached to it," said Rich Pietravalle, head of MITRE’s Vehicle Cybersecurity Lab. "Cars, with all their enhanced electronics and connectivity, are a gateway into the transportation infrastructure."

Cars today are more connected than ever before, linking individual components and communicating with other vehicles, infrastructure and more. But as complexity increases, there are more possibilities for vulnerabilities and potential means of attack from malicious actors.

MITRE has worked with the Virginia State Police (VSP) and a cybersecurity working group to help safeguard police cruisers. The Virginia Cyber Security Commission established a working group to address the possibility of cyber-attacks on vehicles. 

Using a cruiser loaned to MITRE by the VSP, a research team identified vulnerabilities, a first step in developing prevention strategies to protect automobiles from cyber-attack. MITRE shared its research at a Virginia State Police testing facility and training academy. The results of these findings will help the nation’s law enforcement agencies, first responders, and other public safety professionals.

While a specific automobile could be a target, attackers could also use a vehicle to target infrastructure systems. Cars increasingly connect to other vehicles, fleet management systems, road infrastructure and even the electric grid. 

Even at Sea, Cybersecurity Remains a Priority

MITRE has also helped develop a set of cybersecurity guidelines for maritime transportation systems (MTS), focusing on the priorities of specific industries and functional areas. Maintaining the security and operation of the nation's MTS is imperative. Ports, refineries, and terminals are key parts of the country's critical infrastructure and national security.

Each section of the MTS has different mission objectives and priorities when it comes to cybersecurity. For example, offshore operations must maintain continuity and operational integrity, while passenger vessels need to account for customer safety and security.

So, in partnership with the Coast Guard and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, MITRE created frameworks for a minimum state of cybersecurity for bulk liquid transfer, offshore operations, and passenger vessels. 

On land and at sea, cybersecurity is an essential component of transportation safety. From innovations in core technology to objective guidelines for industry, MITRE is working with industry and government partners to solve these complex challenges.

—by Jordan Graham

Explore more at MITRE Focal Point: Transportation.

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