Things you should know about automotive software security testing

Berry Mathew

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Things you should know about automotive software security testing

As we turn the corner into the driverless or connected autonomous vehicle era, securing the automobile landscape will become even more crucial and complicated than it already is. Cars were an early mode of transportation; earlier vehicles had basic electrical wiring.

Modern automobiles are powerful. They now have internet connectivity, mobile applications, and many electrical components, sensors, and actuators. Because of the prevalence of hackers, the automobile sector must implement end-to-end security measures.

Why is automotive security essential?

Automotive Security is not limited to only physically hacking a vehicle. If a car’s computer systems are not adequately safeguarded, hackers may steal data or even seize control of the car. These dangers are not just hypothetical. In 2015, security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek made worldwide news when they remotely hacked into a Wired magazine reporter’s Jeep Cherokee. They grabbed the remote control of the vehicle’s air conditioner, windshield wipers, accelerator, and brakes.

After 2015, several researchers presented their results at conferences across the globe, detailing their efforts in hacking the backend systems of automakers and OEMs. Once an attacker or adversary has gained access to a backend server, they can launch fleet-wide assaults. It is problematic at this stage since the backend server provides a trusted platform for OTA (Firmware/Software) updates to a fleet of cars. Either he can seize control of the vehicle’s propulsion, braking, and steering or release a malicious update.

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Best Practices to overcome automotive security challenges

Research deep 

Several countries and standards organizations are developing criteria for vehicle software security. Continually monitor new laws, rules, and guidelines. In addition, it pays sense to pay close attention to those still being developed or discussed. Due to the length of the vehicle manufacturing cycle, it may be necessary to consider these needs during pre-release security testing.

Synchronize production, testing, and development

Automotive software testing must occur concurrently with software development and automobile manufacturing. Flexible project management methodologies such as Agile and Scrum might be used to coordinate these operations. In this manner, a security testing team may uncover vulnerabilities during development and prevent extensive co de rewrites. In addition, it is crucial to evaluate security and software behavior on actual car hardware.

Static Testing 

Software static testing involves examining the source or object code without running it to identify and remove mistakes and ambiguities. It is often performed in the earliest phases of development. This is a vital phase since testing may reveal severe flaws, including leaks, buffer overflows, and departures from the standards. Because testing is performed early, it helps prevent extended development timelines and reduce the number of problems discovered at later stages, which are generally far more expensive and time-consuming to resolve.

Dynamic Testing

Dynamic testing, the antonym of static testing, employs the execution of code to identify vulnerabilities in runtime contexts and the behavior of dynamic variables. Dynamic testing’s primary objective is to ensure that the system is fully functional and error-free. Since the scripts are performed, dynamic testing might take a little longer than static testing and will raise the cost of the final product since the defects discovered will need more resources to fix. However, dynamic testing identifies flaws overlooked by static testing and often identifies more complicated errors.

Fuzz Testing, or “Fuzzing”

Fuzz testing injects “fuzzy” or incorrect or random data into an application or software to detect crashes, memory leaks, and failed code. Typically, automated software creates this inaccurate or random data, often called “fuzz.”

Fuzzing is advantageous because it provides a feature that a person cannot create. However, it has limits since it often identifies simple or basic risks, meaning that it must be supplemented with other testing approaches to ensure the complete protection of your security management system.

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Security Evaluation

While fuzzing employs random or faulty data to test a system, penetration testing leverages known cyberattacks or vulnerabilities to begin simulated assaults, detecting possible weaknesses and choosing methods to mitigate such flaws. Through this testing and discovering vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity infrastructure, manufacturers can enhance their security systems and fix any vulnerabilities.

Challenges of automotive security testing

Lack of specialized testing knowledge

Checking the protection of embedded, IoT, mobile, virtual, cloud-based, and client-server systems is part of a comprehensive security evaluation of automotive software. In addition to using AI algorithms for predictive maintenance and autopilot, advanced automotive systems may also apply AI algorithms for preventive maintenance. Extremely uncommon are security testers and testing teams with expertise in these areas. Therefore, it might be challenging to develop a full-stack team in-house or recruit an engineer with the necessary knowledge rapidly. One solution to this problem is to seek outsourcing teams with the skills required.

Lack of testable physical hardware

A car is a safety-critical item that cannot be thoroughly evaluated by virtual machines alone. Security testers must ensure that there are no exploitable vulnerabilities in automotive software that operates on actual devices. Obtaining the requisite hardware for final testing might take time since it is often manufactured according to the automobile production schedule. To avoid waiting for hardware manufacturers, employ flexible project management methodologies and coordinate testing with automobile manufacturing.

Poor uniformity of development in the supply chain

Automobile manufacturers collaborate with hundreds of vendors that produce hardware and software components for automobiles. Suppliers utilize languages, operating systems, open-source parts, and hardware components to provide goods on time and at the lowest cost feasible. It is almost challenging to maintain uniform standards throughout the supply chain. It places extra strain on the security testing team, which must do comprehensive integration and compatibility testing to identify vulnerabilities in third-party programs.


Hackers may steal sensitive information, physically harm a car, or even compromise the manufacturer’s server by exploiting vulnerabilities in the car’s software. Perform extensive vehicle cybersecurity testing to find security flaws before cyber criminals do, using an automotive infotainment testing tool like HeadSpin. HeadSpin enables AI testing and assists car OEMs in enhancing development quality and QA efficiency. It also ensures the stability of each release cycle and minimizes post-release investigations.