TIC sees effective local shield to vehicle hacking

By: Rob McKay

Australian standards and regulations ‘more stringent than in US’

TIC sees effective local shield to vehicle hacking
Vehicle IT security has been put in the spotlight.


The Truck Industry Council (TIC) believes the Australian tougher laws and regulations will protect commercial vehicles from the type of vehicle hacking danger illustrated this week in the United Sates.

Technology magazine Wired published its on-road hacking experiment just as US senators separately brought in a Bill to strengthen up their country’s vehicle IT defences, with both moves highlighting vulnerabilities in that country.

In a written response to ATN on Australian commercial vehicles’ resistance to malicious outside interference with the safety and proper functioning of onboard systems, TIC chief technical officer Mark Hammond insists they are robust.

"All automotive products sold in Australia, including trucks, must comply with standards/regulations that detail test requirements for Electro Magnetic Compatibility and Immunity [EMC]," he writes.

"In Australia this is controlled by the federal government and specifically the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

"ACMA have chosen to use European EMC regulations for Australia.

"These European Union [EU] standards are far more stringent than the current EMC regulations that apply in the US and Japan, although Japan is working towards adopting the EU EMC standards fairly quickly."

Hammond emphasises that all trucks sold in Australia must comply with these EU EMC standards, "so even the US, Japanese and locally manufactured trucks sold here comply with these more stringent EU standards".

Australia is principally a 'technology taker' when it comes to automotive technology and products.

As such, the country will be "largely guided by regulations and standards developed in overseas markets, principally Europe, and, in this case, the Australian government has already chosen the most robust EMC regulations … that currently exist for automotive vehicles globally.

"However the Australian government, with the assistance of the Australian automotive industry, must continue to strive to adopt the most relevant and effective regulations and vehicle standards that will offer Australians the safest possible motor vehicles."

Hammond assures the market that there is no complacency amongst original equipment makers (OEMs) or government on emerging risks.

"TIC will continue to work with the Australian government and our members, the truck OEMs and major component suppliers, to ensure that our current regulations and vehicle standards are ‘world class’ and ‘best practice’," he says.

"Further, we will work with these organisations to identify potential safety risks, including cyber risks with new technologies, and recommend future regulations and vehicle standards that will ensure that the trucks sold in Australia are as safe as is realistically possible.

"This is in effect is what is happening in the US with the Markey and Blumenthal SPY Car Act 2015 Congress Bill proposal.

"Finally, TIC in no way supports or endorses the public disclosure of information that could encourage or assist in any way a person or persons to gain unauthorised and unlawful access and/or control of any system or function of a motor vehicle."

On that point, Hammond underlines the difficulty of what the security researchers undertook to get through what is a lesser EMC regime and only one vehicle.

There was three years of initial work, then with a university grant of US$80,000 they purchased two more vehicles that they claimed to have spent a further 12 months tearing down and digitally and physically, mapping out their electronic control units, to get to where they are today.

This was "quite some level of control over one model" but  less so for the other two models mentioned.

"This was no ‘quick and simple’ computer hack," Hammond says.

"Of course they have succeeded in hacking and controlling some driving functions on a specific brand of car and this should and will, be a warning for all vehicle manufacturers – car and truck alike – as well as government authorities and rule makers."

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