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Department of Homeland Security awards UMTRI-led team $1.2 M for cybersecurity research

November 5, 2015

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded $1.2 million to the University of Michigan for the development of technology that can help defend government and privately owned vehicles from cyber-attacks. The project titled “Secure Software Update Over-the-Air for Ground Vehicles Specification and Prototype” was awarded through Broad Agency Announcement HSHQDC-14-R- B00016 and is part of the DHS S&T Cyber Security Division’s larger Cyber Physical Systems Security (CPSSEC) program.

“This is a critical time to be thinking about automotive cyber security,” said DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers. “Most modern vehicles are operated by computers and software. Attacks on these systems could have significant and dangerous impacts. We cannot be complacent defending against these attacks.”

Advances in networking, computing, sensing, and control systems have enabled a broad range of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) devices, including modern vehicles, medical devices, building controls, the smart power grid, and the Internet of Things. Driven by functional requirements and fast moving markets, these systems are being designed and deployed quickly. The design choices being made today will directly impact the nation’s industries and critical infrastructure sectors over the next several decades. S&T’s Cyber Security Division (CSD) recently launched the CPSSEC project that aims to “build security into” emerging CPS designs.

“Like any other software, CPS in automobiles requires periodic updates for safe and efficient operation,” said Dr. Dan Massey, S&T CPSSEC Program Manager. “We must ensure that updates are adequately protected. The consequences can be costly and potentially impact millions of lives.”

The University of Michigan team, led by Dr. André Weimerskirch, proposes to develop a system for convenient, safe and reliable software over-the-air (SOTA) updates to securely deploy to vehicles before vulnerabilities can be exploited. The goal is to develop a comprehensive industry standard that includes technical design specification, reference source code and best practice guidance for integration, testing, and deployment.

See the full Department of Homeland Security press release