CPASS Faculty Shine Spotlight on Autonomous Systems Security in IEEE Micro

Exciting Research Opportunities has Potential Security Vulnerabilities

WPI’s initiative for Cyber-Physical and Secure Systems (CPASS) recently provided a synopsis of the state of autonomous vehicle security for readers of IEEE Micro—and the resulting picture raises both alarming gaps and exciting research opportunities.

Featured in the January/February issue of the prominent magazine of the IEEE Computer Society, the CPASS article describes academic and industry research into autonomous vehicles employing embedded computing and sensors, such as robots, unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, and self-driving cars.

As CPASS co-authors note, while such vehicles are becoming increasingly essential for activities such as combat fighting, intelligence gathering, and scientific study, little research has been conducted into their potential security vulnerabilities.

“Researchers have put substantial investments into creating and perfecting unmanned vehicles,” says CPASS Principal Investigator Alexander Wyglinski. “Yet few people are talking about security, leaving these vehicles open to critical risks. What we’ve done is provide a roadmap for initiating research in this important area.”

The article outlines vulnerabilities in three technologies: embedded processors that guide specific activities, sensors that provide situational awareness, and communication systems that relay and receive information. These can translate into a wide range of malicious user attacks, from remotely unlocking car doors to gaining control of a drone’s entire navigation system.

“We’re calling on the engineering community to help identify these threats and devise effective countermeasures,” says Wyglinski. “Hopefully we’ll spark the beginning of a critical conversation—and some interesting results.”

One group that will be further exploring security solutions for autonomous vehicles is CPASS. Formed in 2011 as an interdisciplinary team of professors focused on embedded system and sensor security, CPASS is currently supporting several student projects and graduate students. They hope to progress their work in the coming years to help turn WPI into a center of knowledge in this expanding area.

February 26, 2013

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