Fast Charging Cyber Security A New Focus Now

OCT 25 2018 BY MARK KANE 2

These days even charging needs to be secured from attacks.

Virginia Tech was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy a $3 million grant for research on electric vehicle charging infrastructure cybersecurity.

Some maybe might not think about charging security, but there could be serious threats, especially with an increase in the scale of EV adoption.

Cracking into the charging systems could enable one to steal personal or financial information, damage the vehicle (how about increasing the voltage beyond an acceptable range), or even attack the electrical grid (let’s shut down 1,000 stations at once). There are a lot of scenarios of what could potentially go wrong.

Virginia Tech will look for ways to protect the critical infrastructure as it’s probably just a matter of time before we see the first hostile attempts.

“Ryan Gerdes, assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, will lead the research collaboration of university and industry researchers, vehicle and charger manufacturers, and a utility operator to develop comprehensive solutions that will mitigate or eliminate these threats and ensure the reliability of electric vehicle-based transportation, more specifically to decrease the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle in a secure and efficient manner.

“We will work to develop systems to protect the infrastructure for fast charging: controllers, converters, and monitoring systems. In addition, we will address user privacy by using secure sensing and ‘smart’ defense systems,” said Gerdes. “The process will deploy remote updates to successfully address system vulnerability. We look forward to testing the technologies on a real-world testbed that includes an extremely fast charging unit and battery electric vehicle situated in a microgrid.”

Gerdes, also a faculty affiliate in Virginia Tech’s Hume Center for National Security and Technology, works with the center in the area of cybersecurity and cyber-physical systems security. The electric vehicle is a typical example of one of the systems in this body of research because the systems interact with the physical world and present unique security challenges.

Additional Virginia Tech researchers working on the project, “Enabling Secure and Resilient XFC: A Software/Hardware-Security Co-Design Approach,” are Kevin Heaslip, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and affiliate of the Hume Center; Saifur Rahman, the Joseph Loring Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Manisa Pipattanasomporn, research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

With OnBoard Security, an industry leader in automotive cybersecurity solutions, Gerdes and team will assess overall electric vehicles charging units and hardware designs. Collectively, the team then will provide recommendations for more resilient charging systems and create new software and charging architectures that will ensure a safer and guaranteed remediation of vulnerabilities while respecting user privacy.

“Electric vehicles are potentially vulnerable to attacks via the charging stations that could lead to stolen personal and financial information, vehicle damage, or even attacks on the electrical grid,” explained Jonathan Petit, senior director of research at OnBoard Security. “The grant will allow my research team, along with experts from Virginia Tech and other partners, to evaluate these attack vectors and recommend solutions.”

The research grant represents the type of translational research in cybersecurity envisioned by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). By bringing together federal funding and industry partnerships, university researchers are able to tackle key challenges in the cyber domain and have paths to market for the resulting technologies. Additionally, the grant uniquely aligns with two key cybersecurity focus areas: transportation and energy.

In June, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed the 2018-20 budget that includes $25 million for CCI. Higher education institutions, business and technology firms, and government and nongovernment organizations seek to build an ecosystem of research, education, and engagement that positions Virginia as a world leader in cybersecurity and addresses workforce needs. The initiative calls for a primary hub, anchored by Virginia Tech and located in Northern Virginia, and a network of sites across the commonwealth.”

Source: Virginia Tech via Green Car Congress

Categories: Charging

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2 Comments on "Fast Charging Cyber Security A New Focus Now"

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Joe J

I’ve always worried about this when plugging in to a public EVSE. Even though the J1772 port can really only request power or stop power flow, it seems like an obvious point for hackers. With a limited number of models of plug-ins, pretty specific software could be developed and uploaded into a car to cause major damage.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe fast chargers have to “talk” more to a car than a typical EVSE. Would this also be a potential place where malware could be loaded onto a car’s computer?

jamcl3

Yes. AC chargers have mostly (really all) analog communications, so it is too dumb to enable hacking. Some DC interfaces provide a complete TCP/IP stack, which seems to me like hanging a sign on your back that says “Kick me!”. But someone at some point thought that was a good idea.