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As the technology in cars continue to advance and autonomous vehicles are closer to reality, hackers are finding a way in.

Researchers from The Ohio State University have focused on the security of wireless interfaces utilized by vehicles that are connected to critical controls and can be susceptible to hacks.

 “Connecting vehicles is a great thing,” Ohio State University Associate Professor Emre Koksal, said in a statement. “Arguably, the ability to connect vehicles wirelessly is the biggest enabler of autonomous and intelligent transportation systems, which promise many safety benefits.

“On the other hand, now that a vehicle’s computers are connected, you introduce security issues that can affect the safety of those inside and near the vehicle.”

Some of the security issues include fake signals or messages transmitted to a vehicle.

 “When my vehicle receives a signal or a message from another vehicle—for instance a public safety vehicle—how do I know for sure that it is coming from that vehicle and not a hacker,” Koksal said.

Koksal wanted to authenticate the signals using an approach that involves multiple input, multiple output technology, where multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver are combined to minimize errors and optimize data speed, while also enabling estimation and detection of the signal’s direction.

The researchers also utilized proven cyber encryption methods to authenticate the content of a signal, using roadside antennas to verify the transmitter’s claimed location.

The researchers said that public key infrastructure, which is what the current approaches towards cybersecurity in vehicles is based on, can be broken through GPS spoofing—the process where someone can take an authenticated radio and transmit fake signals from an external location.

This could cause fatal accidents as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications become more widespread.

 “We have highly skilled faculty and researchers in communications and networking, we can take that knowledge 30 miles away to the largest independent automotive testing grounds in North America and we have the support of the university,” Koksal said. “All three of these components combined put us in a unique position at Ohio State.” 

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