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December 5, 2023

Automotive Cybersecurity: Preventing Vulnerabilities in Car Software

Security & Compliance
Static Analysis

Automotive cybersecurity is critical in the development of vehicles, especially as software in cars is increasingly connected. In this blog, we share how to prevent automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

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Why Is Cybersecurity In Automotive Important?

Today's connected cars are so much more than simple solutions to get from Point A to Point B: With data sharing in real-time, app to car connectivity, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), critical safety features like location tracking, remote parking, and in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVIs), connected vehicles aim to improve the driving (and riding) experience.

But adding smart features to vehicles opens them up to cyberattacks that may leak customer data at best and, at worst, impact critical safety features. Sometimes, it's not until after the product has shipped that you realize some vulnerabilities could have been easily prevented. A recent uptick in car thefts, for example, was due to an omission of anti-theft computer chips in vehicle key systems, according to a Bloomberg report. That's why it's important to consider various potential attack vectors and put a plan in place from the very beginning of development.

Fortunately, with a growing demand for connected vehicles and increasing government regulations, automotive organizations are identifying cybersecurity as a top priority. In fact, the automotive cybersecurity market is projected to be worth $13.9 billion USD by 2030, according to a recent report by Meticulous Research

Cybersecurity in automotive embedded software is critical. It's the only way to ensure that automotive software is bulletproof and secure. This improves the security of the vehicle. It keeps passengers safe. And it protects manufacturers and developers. It reduces the risk of damage to reputations.

But, how do you ensure automotive cybersecurity?

That's where it gets tricky.

Knowing where to focus your time and energy can be half the challenge. You can trace most security issues back to software vulnerabilities. And these can be easily prevented. 

More on Automotive Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

There are many cybersecurity vulnerabilities you need to know. Our recent white paper covers the top 10. Learn how to prevent the top 10 security vulnerabilities affecting embedded systems. (Including automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities.)

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Top Automotive Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

Here are two key automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities — and how to prevent them.

Memory Buffer Problems  

Memory buffer problems are the top automotive cybersecurity vulnerability. This means that software can read or write to locations outside of the boundaries of the memory buffer. One example is buffer overflow.

This includes: 

  • Not checking size of input on copy.
  • Bug allowing writing to arbitrary locations.
  • Out-of-bounds read.
  • Pointers outside expected range.
  • Untrusted pointer dereference.
  • Uninitialized pointers.
  • Expired pointer references.
  • Access of memory beyond buffer end.

It's important to keep memory buffer issues from impacting automotive cybersecurity. 

Code Injections

Code injections are another type of automotive cybersecurity vulnerability. They affect interpreted environments. Code injection most often affects infotainment systems and other complicated in-vehicle systems. 

It's important to prevent code injection attacks to ensure automotive cybersecurity.


Prevent Code Injection Attacks

Learn how to prevent code injection attacks. In our recent white paper, you'll learn strategies for detecting and preventing code injection attacks.

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Top Automotive Cybersecurity Standards and Guidelines

To remain competitive and ensure automotive cybersecurity in their embedded systems, OEMs need to meet evolving automotive standards and guidelines. 

ISO SAE 21434

ISO SAE 21434 is a standard that focuses on the cybersecurity risk in road vehicle electronic systems. This standard covers all stages of a vehicle's lifecycle and applies to all electronic systems and software in the vehicle, plus any external connectivity. ISO SAE 21434 also provides developers with a guide to implementing security safeguards across the entire supply chain. 


In addition, the latest WP.29 UNECE regulations cover Cybersecurity Management Systems and Software Update Management Systems, establishing clear process requirements for automotive manufacturers that apply to the whole supply chain. These guidelines include recommendations to use coding standards as part of cybersecurity best practices for software development. 

Static analysis is a recommended method of verification of these coding standards. Developers can use static code analyzers — like Helix QAC and Klocwork — to help enforce coding guidelines such as MISRA® and CERT, prove compliance to coding standards, and help your organization and suppliers meet the recommended software verification guidelines. 

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How to Prevent Automotive Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

Here's how to prevent automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities:

  1. Use design review, manual analysis, and automated static analysis. 
  2. Make sure that you’re aware of all your black box components. Keep them up-to-date.  
  3. Don’t assume that everything is within your own system. Pay special attention to items that may be pulling from a website. 

Static code analysis can help. 

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Improve Automotive Cybersecurity with Perforce Static Analysis Tools

One of the most effective ways to improve automotive cybersecurity and prevent vulnerabilities today is to use a static analysis tool, such as Helix QAC or Klocwork .

A static analysis tool helps enforce key automotive coding guidelines — such as MISRA and AUTOSAR C++14 — as well as assists with compliance to functional safety standards — such as ISO 26262 — and security standards — such as ISO 21434.

In addition, a static analysis tool improves software quality by:

  • Detecting automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities, compliance issues, and rule violations earlier in development. This accelerates code reviews and manual testing.
  • Enforcing industry coding standards and guidelines.
  • Accelerating code reviews.
  • Reporting on compliance over time and across product versions.

See how Perforce static analysis tools can help you improve the quality of your software while also accelerating compliance. Sign up for a free trial today.

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