Its now common to see electronics in cars controlling all aspects of driving; door entry, steering, braking and safety equipment such as onboard cameras and air bags. The increased functionality expected in modern cars as well as the increased complexity required by safety standards is best met through the use of microprocessor based systems. It also meant that the physical space for wiring was fast running out. 

Communication inside the car would also require wireless transmission. Advances in wireless technology outtside of the car, satellite communications and GPS also meant that cars could transmit useful information about their location such as traffic flow.

However, these developments within the automotive industry have also increased the attack surface. Cars are now vulnerable to attacks inside and out.


The electronic subsystems inside cars are interconnected via buses. Traditionally these were CAN based bus systems but due to security concerns, this has been superseded by CAN-FD and Flexray. These systems will be discussed in another article. The electronic subsystems are known as ECU’s – electronic control systems. The ECU is an embedded system controlling an electrical or mechanical system such as breaking, navigation, environmental pollution or the engine. They are susceptible to various attacks including software and side channel attacks. These will be discussed indepth in following articles.