Demonstrated defense: Uptane takes a test drive

2017-05-08 · Posted by: Lois Anne DeLong · Categories: Uptane · Comments

While the Uptane group continues to invite white hat hackers to “break our system” before malicious parties attempt to do so for real, several of the developers behind the project decided to put on their black hats and test the defenses themselves. To let potential users see how Uptane—a secure update framework for automotive computing units—works, Sebastien Awwad and Vladimir Diaz, developers with NYU’s Secure Systems Laboratory, have prepared and posted a demonstration on YouTube. The 13 minute presentation, which can be accessed here shows how Uptane provides resilience against six different, and increasingly malicious simulated attacks—a small sampling of the many threats against which Uptane can defend.

Awwad provides a brief overview of the system, then conducts and narrates a normal update. This is followed by the attacks, which begin with a “very basic” man-in-the-middle attack on the Director Repository, a live repository of instructions for each vehicle. Attacks are also conducted against the system’s Image Repository, a more static repository of available updates, as well as on both simultaneously. The attacks escalate from there, until they conclude with a demonstration of how OEMs or suppliers can bring repositories back after a major key compromise, and prevent harm stemming from the use of compromised keys by malicious actors.

Within the demo, two Raspberry Pis are used as stand-ins for primary and secondary clients in an automobile, Electronic Control Units (ECUs) such as the infotainment ECU and a transmission control unit. A monitor displays the web-based front-end for the central services that assign updates to vehicles.

The Uptane project provides a mechanism to securely distribute software updates to cars, thus avoiding the comprehensive array of security attacks that can attack critical systems. For additional information on Uptane, go to its web site.