Safeguarding data in the car

  • 04-Jun-2009 05:22 EDT
Discretix security software uses encryption to keep intruders from altering vehicle software.

Data security is becoming a bigger factor in vehicles as more consumer products connect to vehicles, and it may loom larger when cars connect to the outside world. Discretix Technologies Ltd. is focusing on automotive security, leveraging technology it developed for portable consumer devices.

The Israeli firm provides security technology to a range of consumer companies including LG, ST Ericsson, SanDisk, and Intel. Its executives feel that, as telematics and vehicle-to-vehicle communications further open autos to potential security breaches, the industry will need to deploy protective technologies.

“Once you have cars connected to other cars and to the infrastructure, you want to make sure of the integrity of your system and communicate only with trusted sources," said Jacob Greenblatt, Director of Corporate Strategy.

­These external connections are expected to grow rapidly. ABI Research predicts that telematics will soar from 12% of new cars in 2010 to 43% in 2014.

There is also a growing need for security inside the vehicle when consumer products are tied to the infotainment system, which is sometimes connected to other vehicle systems. Once ports are opened, there is a chance people will add code that interferes with the vehicle’s software.

“As more systems are connected to one another, you need to be sure that trust is maintained," said Amit Shofar, Senior Director of Business Development.

The software is integrated with the operating system, and it runs on the main CPU in most systems. The hardware layer, delivered as intellectual property so it’s easy to integrate, includes random number generators and encryption techniques.

Discretix technology will not require any huge increase in memory size. That is partly because it was designed for cell phones and personal digital assistants. “Typical solutions for ECUs are in the range of 10s of Kbytes," Greenblatt said.

Shofar noted that the software is not antivirus or antimalware. Instead, it provides security mechanisms that assure users that malicious applications cannot disrupt device functions, he noted. Encryption is a central aspect, ensuring that only reliable data is transferred.

The decade-old company first targeted the auto industry about two years ago. Discretix has a contract with a large, unnamed Japanese supplier and is discussing programs with a number of Tier 1s, Greenblatt said.

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