Building Resilient Automotive Systems: Cybersecurity Strategies for Automotive Companies - Stefanini

Building Resilient Automotive Systems: Cybersecurity Strategies For Automotive Companies

The rise of the ACES trends, including autonomous driving, connected cars, electric vehicles, and shared mobility, has created long-lasting change in the automotive industry. But though these trends boast some major benefits, they also create the need for enhanced and expanded cybersecurity measures throughout the automotive value chain.

For example, one of the biggest advantages of connected cars is the ability to test and update the vehicle remotely. However, the digitization of in-car systems has created greater risk when it comes to cybersecurity. Now, nefarious hackers can do more than gain access to sensitive data, potentially taking advantage of software flaws to disrupt the functionality of the vehicle itself.

This shift has turned automotive cybersecurity into a matter of physical safety, but with regulatory standards for vehicle hardware and software still developing, automakers will need to think strategically to build resilient and secure systems that are prepared to tackle the automotive cybersecurity needs of both today and tomorrow. In this article, we’re breaking down emerging cyber threats in the automotive industry and sharing strategies companies may be able to use to mitigate them.

What is automotive cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity, the practice of protecting data and systems from digital attacks, is a hot topic across industries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), effective automotive cybersecurity protects all vehicle components, from electronic systems to communication networks, control algorithms, software and underlying data. To create safer experiences and capture value in the growing cybersecurity market, automotive players will need to assess the entire development cycle, from procurement to design and development.

Top 5 Automotive Cybersecurity Threats

Rapid change in the automotive industry has created the need for robust cybersecurity measures, from software development practices to vulnerability management and beyond. New, emerging cyberattacks continue to pop up, with the cyber risk associated with third-party mobile apps, vehicle subscription services, fleet management software and other areas on the rise. The biggest potential cyber threats in the automotive industry include the following.

Keyless Entry

Many modern vehicles feature remote start technology, allowing drivers to unlock and start their cars without having to physically unlock the vehicle. Cyber attackers can take advantage of this, using multiple methods of attack to unlock, access and start the vehicle themselves.

Connected Cars

Connected vehicles are equipped with a variety of software and sensors that allow them to communicate with each other and the outside world. This connectivity makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks, as hackers can potentially exploit vulnerabilities in the software or hardware to gain access to the vehicle’s critical systems.

Autonomous Driving

Autonomous vehicles may be even more vulnerable to cyberattacks than connected ones. Self-driving vehicles rely on complex software to make decisions about how to drive. A successful attack on an autonomous vehicle could potentially cause it to crash or function erratically.

Driver Assistance

Advanced driver assistance technologies, made possible by AI, leverage a plethora of electronics, sensors and systems, like electronic control units, to function. But though driver assistance features have the potential to make roads safer, strong cybersecurity measures will be needed to ensure they function as intended.

EV Charging Infrastructure

Electric vehicles rely on charging stations to operate, but these stations can be vulnerable to fraud, malware and remote manipulation, compromising the charging process and potentially altering the vehicle’s ability to function properly.

Charging networks also collect and store sensitive data like customer payment information, vehicle identification numbers and more. Because these networks are connected via an electric grid, a cyberattack on a charging station could potentially impact the entire grid, leading to service disruptions and widespread outages that would significantly impact individuals and businesses that rely on EV charging.

Successful Strategies for Automotive Cybersecurity

To mitigate potential cyberattacks, automotive companies will need to consider cybersecurity at all stages, from the individual electronic vehicle components to the communication between those components, the interfaces that connect the vehicle to the outside world, and the methods in which drivers interact with their vehicles.

To build safe, resilient systems and work processes, automakers should consider the following strategies:

  • Take a multi-layered approach: Vehicles have several entry points, both wireless and wired, which hackers can potentially use to gain unauthorized access to the vehicle’s systems. To mitigate malicious attacks and ensure vehicle security, automotive companies should lean into a comprehensive, systematic approach to cybersecurity, considering new architectures, methods and third-party partners that may strengthen their security ecosystem.
  • Establish a culture of cybersecurity: From suppliers to manufacturers and dealers, 360° cybersecurity requires everyone to be on the same page. To be successful in implementing cybersecurity measures throughout the automotive value chain, all partners, stakeholders and employees must be aligned with the common goal of creating safer driver experiences.
  • Invest in new cybersecurity competencies: To navigate the new normal of automotive, companies will need to look at cybersecurity differently, considering new approaches at each step of the process. To build new, future-focused cybersecurity competences, automakers will need to invest in cybersecurity education, creating new roles and functions when needed.
  • Prepare to detect and respond to incidents: From identifying potential vehicle vulnerabilities to responding to cyber attacks, OEMs must be prepared to handle security incidents quickly and safely when they arise. To do this, automotive players will need to develop new work processes to monitor vehicles in real-time, constructing incident response teams with the technical capabilities needed to both deal with cyber threats and analyze vehicle anomalies.


As road vehicles become increasingly connected and autonomous, the amount of data collected and stored in automotive electronic systems is growing exponentially. This data can be a valuable target for hackers, who could use it to steal personal information, control vehicles remotely or even cause accidents.

To protect their vehicles and their customers, automotive companies will need to be strategic and intentional, encrypting driver data, building reliable communication networks and designing secure electronic systems.

Looking to improve your security posture against emerging threats? At Stefanini, we combine industry expertise with cyber defense services to help your company build resilient systems. Contact us to learn more!

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