Tag: Cybersecurity

Gearing Up: How New Cybersecurity Guidelines Accelerate the Automotive Industry Security

So here you are, with your new spanking SUV that is fully EV and fully automated, with the most state of the art systems inbuilt. You get into the car, switch everything on, put in your favourite tune and head off to work. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your speakers go bonkers and suddenly says in an ominous voice, “Now I got you…” and your steering decides to turn despite your best effort to right it and the accelerator depresses despite you removing your feet off the pedal and your brakes don’t work anymore. You watch helplessly as your car flies over the embankment 120 km an hour.

Homicide by the car. Open your pod bay doors, Hal.

This seems far removed from current reality, but it might not be as far as we think.

Cyberattacks are on the rise in the traditional automotive industry in recent years, as cars become more dependent on circuits and electronics as opposed to mechanics and gaskets.

Connectivity defines the modern vehicle. With some cars containing over 100 million lines of code and processing nearly 25GB of data per hour, computerization radically reimagines mobility – enabling telematics, infotainment and autonomous drive capabilities that were unthinkable barely a decade ago. This software-ized transformation, securing IT components against cyber risks grows ever-more vital. As showcased by researchers commandeering functions like braking and steering via consumer Wi-Fi or compromised infotainment apps, hackers now have pathways into safety-critical vehicle controls. Highly automated models promise even larger attack surfaces.

In the future, mechanics will be phased out by electronic engineers to fix cars. You would go to an electronic shop instead of a mechanic shop. Say goodbye to the toothy uncle with the towel around his shoulder shaking his leg in his greasy shirt.

Bearing this in mind, the Japanese automotive industry is making serious efforts to improve cybersecurity. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Japan Auto Parts Industries Association (JAPIA) both formed cybersecurity working groups. These two collaborated in 2019 to develop the JAMA/JAPIA Cybersecurity Guidelines, and on March 31, 2022, a second version was released to help steer the industry toward a more cyber-resilient course. Spanning 156 requirements aligned to internationally recognized standards, the guidelines furnish a sector-specific blueprint for fortifying defenses.

Who Do the Guidelines Target?

Given deepening connectivity between various players, the guidelines take broad aim across the mobility ecosystem:

  • Automobile manufacturers
  • Major Tier 1 parts suppliers
  • Software and semiconductor vendors tightly integrated into products
  • Telecommunications carriers facilitating connectivity
  • Fleet operations centers managing vehicle data
  • Components manufacturers farther down supply tiers
  • Aftermarket service providers accessing internal buses
  • Dealership networks bridging manufacturers and consumers
  • Academic partners feeding talent pipelines

Essentially, any entity handling sensitive intellectual property or providing critical products/services supporting vehicle R&D, manufacturing, sales, maintenance or communications should adhere to the prescribed cyber controls. This is fairly normal, like other standards out there, sub-contractors usually take the hit, as these standards are pushed down from the top.

While the guidelines focus on securing corporate IT environments, they spotlight risks from increasing convergence of enterprise and industrial assets. As connected platforms, analytics and cloud infrastructures provide gateway for adversaries into production systems, shoring up corporate IT protection grows imperative.

Three-Year Roadmap for Enhancing Cybersecurity Posture

Given the significant dedication for properly implementing comprehensive cybersecurity management programs, requirements are divided into three priority tiers reflecting basic, intermediate and advanced measures. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the minimum necessary countermeasures that must be used regardless of company size. This division allows organizations to methodically elevate security stature over a three-year adoption roadmap:

Level 1 – Basic Security Hygiene (Mandatory):

The 35+ non-negotiable Level 1 controls target universals like access management, malware defenses, monitoring fundamentals, compliance auditing, encryption, and security training. These form basic cyber hygiene mandatory across all auto sector entities. These requirements are intended to build a chain of security and trust between companies and their business partners and are also applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises. Non automative industry might do well to also use some of these as baseline cybersecurity practices. It’s basically cybersecurity hygiene. And we all know Japan has the best hygiene in the world, right?

Level 2 – Best Practices (2 Years):

An additional 60+ intermediate requirements call out data protection expansions, enhanced monitoring/logging, vulnerability management, security testing and supply chain risk management practices. Deeper employee training and executive awareness campaigns also feature.

Firms handling sensitive IP or high transaction volumes are expected to adopt Level 1 and 2 guidelines covering both foundational and sector-specific heightened risk areas within two years.

Companies should implement these controls, especially if they meet one of the following conditions:

1. Companies handling external confidential information (technical, customer information, etc.) within the supply chain.

2. Companies with significant internal technology/information relevant to the automotive industry.

3. Companies with a reasonable size/share that could have a significant impact on the industry supply chain due to unexpected disruptions.

Level 3 – Advanced Protections (3 Years):

Finally, over 50 sophisticated measures comprise the advanced tier targeting state-of-the-art safeguards. Encryption ubiquity, advanced behavioral monitoring, automated validation testing, penetration assessments and further elevation of risk management programs defined here help drive the industry’s cybermaturity.

These practices showcase leadership, with Level 3 representing an ultimate target for manufacturers expected to benchmark sector-wide security.

Built-in Flexibility Accounts for Organization Size

The tiered model acknowledges the varying cybersecurity investment capabilities across the industry landscape. This allows smaller players an achievable Level 1 entry point before working toward the expanded Layer 2 and 3 guidelines on a timeline proportional to organizational size and risk.

Again, in comparison to standards like PCI-DSS that also adopts similar tiered approach for compliance, this makes sense, given the number of different entities affected by this standard.

Checklist Format Provides Clear Milestones for Growth

To ease adoption, requirements trace to numbered checkpoints within a detailed appendix. This enumerated format lets companies definitively benchmark postures against guidelines and methodically strengthen defenses while tracking progress.

Shared criteria similarly help suppliers demonstrate security improvements to automaker customers through consistent maturity evaluations, facilitating trust in the supply chain.

Guidance Tuned to Automotive Sector Risk Landscape

Along with staging requirements by attainability, guidelines tailor controls and concepts to risks distinct from other industries. While mapping extensively to internationally recognized standards like NIST and ISO27K, authors customized content to the sector’s specialized threats and priorities.

For example, Level 1 mandates continuous monitoring for unauthorized access or malware activity. This acknowledges the havoc potential of a breach within an interconnected web of automakers, parts suppliers and assembly lines. Different secure zones and security focuses blur the lines on whether if (or when) a breach occurs, whose problem is that, how do we track it?

The repeated emphasis on supply chain oversight, information exchange standards and third-party security likewise reflects the complex hand-offs and trust relationships fundamental to mobility ecosystem operations.

Build Cyber Resilience Across Fragmented Environments

As vehicles evolve into software-defined platforms, cyber principles growing from these Japanese guidelines can shape sector-wide baseline resilience. Automotive IT interconnectivity will only intensify, making comprehensive, unified cybersecurity strategy essential. The scenario of the killer SUV may still be well into the future, but everything starts somewhere and as the world move more into the electronic and artificial, so too our dependence on everyday technology that we take for granted.

Whether global manufacturer or tiny niche parts maker, each player shares responsibility for hardening the greater environment. Just as drivetrains integrate thousands of precision components into harmonized mechanical systems, robust digital defenses emerge from many entities working in synch.

Implementing defined building blocks now allows the industry to preemptively navigate obstacles that could imperil revolutionary mobility pursuits ahead. For those seeking secure footing in the auto sector’s cyber journey, this three-year roadmap paves a straight path forward. This isn’t just for Japanese companies, but for any company whether in Malaysia or other regions that does business with Japanese automakers. This is a clarion call to the industry that cybersecurity should be foremost in the board’s agenda. Contact us at avantedge@pkfmalaysia.com and we will immediately get back to you. With our Japanese auditor and implementation partners, we can assist you in any way you want in navigating this standard.

Unless of course, you are in your Killer Suv. In that case, we can’t navigate that. Good luck!

Alienvault USM Anywhere Updates

We just received very good updates from the Alienvault channel team (or AT&T Cybersecurity team as they call themselves now). I think to quickly summarise our excitement into two short phrases:

a) Google Cloud Support – Heck Yeah.

b) Custom Plugin Development – Heck Yeah!

Of course, there were tons of other updates as well, such as scheduled reports, unified UI, more AlienApps support, Cloudflare integration (which is very interesting, as we can identify actions to it, effectively making Alienvault function more like an active prevention system, as opposed to its traditional detective role), new search capability incorporating wildcard searches and advanced asset importing through CSVs as opposed to rudely scanning our clients network.

But the two main courses were the Google Native support and custom plugin.

Google Native support has been a pain point for years. We do have customers moving into GCP or already into GCP where we have been constantly battling to match their expectations for Alienvault to perform as seamlessly as it does on AWS – but it can’t. We had to rely on EDR (endpoint detection and response) for instance, where the agent grabs logs a’la HIDS and sends it over to the server directly. Of course, areas where a native sensor would function, such as creating an internal VPC filter mechanism, or doing vulnerability scanning without having too much inter VPC traffic – these were not able to be done with the EDR so it was very much a bandaid. We knew that our patched up GCP solution wasn’t functioning as well as its handsomer and more dashing brother, AWS. In other words, it kinda sucked.

GCP custom applications also presented its own set of issues – custom apps were difficult to integrate – even with Stackdriver, or us logging to BigQuery, presented a lot of issues to send these logs to Alienvault. When we could configure to send to BigQuery, we couldn’t filter properly, causing our 1TB per month customer quota to be annihilated within days. Now, getting PUB/SUB to work with Alienvault requires APIs to be written, and on top of that to have Alienvault write the custom plugins – all these add to pro services costs, and more importantly, resource and time cost to the project.

So what happens now? In the next General Acceptance/Availability of USM-A, GCP will be supported. The information is sparse so more updates will be forthcoming. But the GCP sensor will be able to:

a) Perform threat detection (like all other sensors), asset discovery, provide Alarms, events, widgets, correlation etc. Basically, it will be native to GCP, doing what it is doing for AWS, Azure and on-prem Hyper and VMWare.

b) Detect VPC flow logs

c) Monitor cloud services through Stackdriver

The last bit is very important. Stackdriver, in essence, is GCP’s answer to Cloudwatch and Cloudtrail of AWS. It monitors and manages services, containers, applications and infrastructure for the cloud. If you have a Cloud services or developing cloud applications, you should be able to support Stackdriver logging. In GCP Compute, the logging agent is used to stream logs from VM Instances. It can even provide the traditional network flow logs (or VPC flow logs), which MSPs can use to monitor network health etc. In other words, this ugly GCP little brother solution is going to get buffed. We’re going to look a lot better now.

The roadmap is bright: Automatic response action against a cloud service when a security event occurs – putting Alienvault into more of a proactive than detective stance it takes traditionally. This is similar to what the Cloudflare integration is achieving. More and more GCP services will be added to be supported. There is also a topic on “User Entity Behaviour Analytics” – which is basically matching behaviour to normal baselines and telling us that Bob is having coffee at 10 am instead of his usual 8 am, which meant he was running late to work, which meant he got stuck in traffic, which meant he left the house late, which meant he woke up late, which meant he slept late last night, which meant he went out for a drink with someone and got smashed, which could possibly mean he is having an affair with a stripper named Daisy. Maybe.

So, pretty exciting times, Aliens!

The other one on the plate wasn’t on the normal discussion agenda but was brought up by us on the international call – we just bombarded the screen with around 10 – 15 queries and at least 4 made it to the table. One of them was: when the hell are we going to get to do our own plugins?

No offence to Alienvault, who currently for USM-A are doing our client’s custom plugins – but 3 – 4 weeks isn’t really going to cut it. Furthermore, sometimes we are not even getting what we want from the custom plugins. We don’t blame Alienvault. The application is ours (as in our client’s). We are the ones who know the events, the priorities. We know what we want to see. We just can’t develop the plugins like what we do now for our USM Appliance clients.

Imagine the win-win situation here. We write plugins for clients (assuming its similar to Appliance), within 2 – 3 days we are done. Testing, another 1 – 2 days. Instead of setting the project timeline back 3 – 4 weeks we are 1 week in. That’s a HUGE impact for compliance clients who are often chasing a deadline. 3 weeks squashed to 1? Hell, Yeah! The win is also for Alienvault. They don’t have to deal with nagging customers or smart-ass channel partners like us banging them for not updating us on our new application plugin. Imagine the parties engineers can now attend to instead of writing regex for a company operating in Elbonia. Imagine the time they now can save and spend socialising with the rest of the world, or having the chance to meet people like Daisy.

It’s a whole new world, really.

So, Alienvault, please, get those updates to us as soon as you can and the world will be a better place for it.

If you need any information on Alienvault, or general help on your SIEM or PCI-DSS compliance, drop us an email on alienvault@pkfmalaysia.com and we will attend to it immediately!

PPWG (Protection Profile Working Group) Workshop at the Lexis

On the 10th – 11th October 2013, we had a meeting of all the Protection Profile Working Groups (PPWG) in Lexis Hotel, Port Dickson.

The PPWG is an initiative under Thrust 3: Cyber Security technology framework of the National Cyber security policy (NCSP), which in turn is to address cyber risks pertaining to Malaysia’s Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII). 4 PPWGs were established

1. Data Protection

2. Network Devices

3. Application

4. Smart Card and related devices

The idea behind this was to set up standards and frameworks for developers to adhere to, to ensure information security is embedded in the system, instead of tacked on. We are, in all aspirations, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US.

PKF Avant Edge was formerly invited at the beginning of this year to be part of the PPWG3 group, comprising representatives from MIMOS, Cybersecurity, IRIS, Bank Negara and a few other private companies. In our first meeting, there were several representatives from the industries aside from the ones named above; but by the time this workshop rolled in, and after several iterations of all day meetings to discuss on the standards and protection profile for banking applications; we were the only ones left.

The idea behind PKFAE’s participation and our continuous support for the PPWG is not so much for profit, than for our philosophy. We don’t get anything out of it. The meetings are all day, 9 – 5 in Technology Park, in MIMOS’ HQ, and PKFAE’s representative is the managing director himself, not any other member of the company. So time cost’s perspective, it doesn’t really make too much sense for us to be part of it. But our philosophy has always been to balance profitability and responsibility. These are reasons why we give free workshops on Personal data protection act and project management; why we give free talks and industry contribution to universities; why we spend time engaging the government and educational societies in bringing information security awareness: we don’t get paid at all, and yet we do it. The underlying idea is to contribute back to the industry in which you are part of. If not in charity or donations, then in time and value. It does sound utopian, but we started the company with these basic tenets, so why not just continue on?

As such, aside from the government agencies, we are one of the few, if not the only consulting firm that is participating in our PPWG. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, as well as doing something without any fees. We are not looking for any reward, but simply as something we need to be part of, as the basic form of our existence.

Once in a while, it’s still nice to get away from it all to Port Dickson, of course.

Good View from my room

Session ongoing from one of the PPWG

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