Israeli startup seeks to head off hacking threats from connected cars

Israeli startup seeks to head off hacking threats from connected cars

When SafeRide’s technology detects an anomaly it alerts a security operations center, which then decides how to respond

Israel's SafeRide Technologies Ltd. aims to protect drivers from hackers by monitoring for threats and thwarting them before they come to fruition (YouTube screenshot).
Israel's SafeRide Technologies Ltd. aims to protect drivers from hackers by monitoring for threats and thwarting them before they come to fruition (YouTube screenshot).

Drivers of smart cars beware. Internet use in a vehicle has opened up a whole world of dangers for drivers and passengers, because intruders can infiltrate online networks. Businesses are especially at risk with confidential information or trade secrets exposed via the car’s software.

Additionally, hacking the automation system would enable outside actors to assume control of key functions and cause the vehicle to behave erratically, thus posing life-threatening risks to those inside it.

While there are tens of millions of connected cars on the road today, the number is expected to rise to hundreds of millions by 2020, according to Argus Cyber Security and Gartner.

Israel’s SafeRide Technologies Ltd., a 30-person, Tel Aviv-based startup founded  in 2016 by Hilik Stein and Yossi Vardi, aims to protect drivers by monitoring for these threats and thwarting them before they come to fruition.

Software developed by the company collects data and analyzes information from within the vehicle, which it uses to establish the normal operation of the car. Then, algorithms are run on an ongoing basis to monitor data and detect anything that looks abnormal, explained SafeRide CEO Vardi, who shares a name with a noted Israeli high-tech entrepreneur.

When the software detects an unknown threat or anomaly, the security operations center is alerted.

For instance, if an attacker tries to or manages to infiltrate the car somehow and causes the steering wheel to spin uncontrollably, “we will detect that as an unauthorized attempt” to control the vehicle, said Vardi. The security operators will decide how to respond to the issue to stop further escalation.

The software protects both against bugs in the programming of the autonomous or connected car and against cyber-attacks from outside infiltrators, Vardi said.

Unless the operator chooses to tell the driver, the driver is not alerted that anything has happened in the car. “The entire idea is to keep the driver focused on driving.” said Vardi — unless of course the steering wheel goes wild, and then the driver is definitely aware that something is amiss.

Yossi Vardi, CEO of SafeRide Technologies Ltd. (Courtesy)

The software uses conventional cybersecurity tools for basic protection against known threats, like a set list of those who are allowed to access the car. What sets SafeRide’s technology apart, however, is how it augments that protection using intelligence tools, like artificial intelligence algorithms, which allow the technology to catch previously unknown threats, explained Vardi. An unknown threat is one that the software has not seen before, so there is no pre-existing pattern to detect it.  SafeRide’s intelligence-based security, though, has the ability to detect that there is an anomaly in the behavior of the vehicle, and then trace it back to the unknown threat.

One example of an anomaly, said Vardi, would be if someone hacked into a car and was sending a business’s confidential information from the vehicle to the outside world. Because normally a car would not be sending confidential information to an external party, SafeRide’s software would be able to identify that event and provide the means to stop it by restricting access of other even more sensitive areas of the car, like the controller area network, to the infiltrator. The software also has the ability to send security updates to other vehicles in order to prevent the observed problem from spreading to others.

In June, SafeRide announced a partnership with Irdeto, a Netherlands-based technology investor to supply its software to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers in China and other countries. Also in June, the company announced a partnership with ST Engineering, an engineering company based in Singapore, to protect its automated shuttle system in Sentosa, Singapore, as well as other electrical and autonomous vehicle platforms of the company.

Israel is perceived as a global leader for its cybersecurity abilities and for its autonomous driving technologies. SafeRide seeks to combine both worlds.

“We combine cybersecurity and AI technology. That’s definitely two of the things that Israel has core expertise in, and the ecosystem and leadership we have in Israel to help execute our strategy is great,”‘ said Vardi.

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