Scientists develop security protocol to protect cars from hack attacks

In a bid to secure small cars against hack attacks, scientists have developed a security protocol that comes with global positioning system (GPS), bluetooth and internet connections.

''There could be some very severe consequences if someone hacked into the car. A car can be fully controlled by the hacker if it is not protected,'' said Shucheng Yu from University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) in the US.

Yu and Zachary King from UALR have created a security protocol to protect smart cars from hacking and they also built an experimental environment that simulated the communication system in a smart car, which allowed the security protocol to be tested through simulations.

The research focused on the development of a security protocol to protect the Controller Area Network (CAN), an internal communications system in vehicles.

''There are many ways that hackers can control CAN. Once they access it, hackers can pretty easily control your car however they want,'' said King.

''We are proposing to add a layer of security, so if an unauthorised person accesses it, they still would not be able to control your vehicle,'' he said.

The security protocol acted in two ways to protect the CAN. It authenticated messages sent through the network by creating an authentication code, which allowed nodes on the network to differentiate between a valid message and an attacker's message, according to the researchers.

King is one of the 10 college students from across the US recruited through a National Science Foundation grant-funded project, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The programmed aims to cut cyberattacks on people using mobile technology and social networking sites, said Dr Mengjun Xie, an associate professor of computer science and director of the CyberSAFE@UALR programme, reported.

"The basic idea is to integrate cybersecurity and cyber forensics research with the latest technology in mobile cloud computing and social media to provide research opportunities to students," Xie said.