VisualThreat puts forward API solutions to prevent cars from cyberattacks

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【Summary】Futurecar reporters recently sat down with VisualThreat’s founder Yan Wei to dig a bit more about what they are doing right now for the upcoming connected car era.

Original Claire    May 31, 2017 12:26 PM PT
VisualThreat puts forward API solutions to prevent cars from cyberattacks

California cyber security startup VisualThreat has recently put forward its API cyberattack solutions at the recent IoT World 2017 convention held in Santa Clara, California. The company claims their product is the world's first ever remote test, open API technical solution on connected car cyber security, which means, you could check your car remotely to see if it has been hacked.

What is cyber security on cars?


Hackers nowadays can hack into your car, disrupt the car's system such as brakes, door locks and computer screen on the dashboard. Suppose you are driving a car on highway and suddenly your steering wheel loses control of the vehicle, which hackers now are able to manipulate, this can cause an unimaginable aftermath.

"The car hacker may inject some malware into the hardware, stealing something from the system. The virus might stay there forever and you are not even aware of that." Yan explained.

Carmakers and OEMs are worried

Last year, the Jeep attack by security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek led to Chrysler recalling 1.4 million cars. Car and related equipment manufacturers are worried that their existing products or new vehicle models which haven't entered the market yet can have security loopholes.

"Customers on average spend 177 minutes in the dealership to purchase their vehicles, and

82% of the people will think twice before purchasing a vehicle if they know the vehicle is not secure." Yan said, adding that their main customers currently are carmakers, tier one providers and testing facility centers, who are looking for solutions for cyber security.

"OEMs would like to redesign their CAN bus and framework, they are looking for companies who can help them in testing. The vehicle could be popular model on the market or new ones that have never been released." Yan told the Futurecar reporter.

For the past two months, the company has implemented testing with 3 different OEMs. The company offers a protection framework called "FUSE", which includes: F-Firewall, U-Umbrella Policy, S-Security-Over-The-Air (SOTA) and E-Event Intelligence. The system can scan over 80 checkpoints on the vehicle, including telematics unit, ECU (Electronic Control Unit), CAN Bus Networks, and telematics platform, etc.

"We now already have our OEM customers that purchase our devices and use them in the whole car manufacturing cycle." said Yan, noting that cars of 1996 or above are able to be tested under VisualThreat's system.

"The interesting thing is, when we are testing some vehicles, we already found there're firewall or gateway-like protection in the system, yet we can still successfully send messages to malfunction the car."

The road ahead

Although federal government is pushing forward the proposal of making all cars connected by 2020, are cars ready for that? Information sharing between vehicles is so important for the development of autonomous driving technology and IoT trends, but are cars able to deal with the threat of hacking today?

"It's the responsibility of the OEMs and government to make sure every vehicle shipped on the market is secure...and we need to design very good products to tell on which condition we need to block the outside command." Yan said.

He further emphasized that the company has accumulated data for the past 6 months, to create a customized solution for different car models.

"Because for each car model, its data and traffic are different, We wanna take a lot of normal traffic and also simulate a lot of malicious traffic. There is no one-fit-for-all solution." Yan said.

"In the near future, we are going to set up a testing lab. And also we are thinking about testing autonomous vehicles, and probably will build our own self-driving testing vehicle. By pulling device on the car, we're gonna see how security test on the sensors and platform of autonomous driving."

VisualThreat has revenue coming in as the company provides testing service to OEMs.   

Founded in 2013, the company now has $4.3 million of financial backing. Currently Yan revealed that VisualThreat is in talks with potential investors for a future round of funding, with an estimated target of $5 to 8 million.

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