2 min

IT-security in autonomous driving

St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences develops new method for secure information exchange between vehicles by means of radio data

Concept of key generation between two vehicles

New technical achievements such as the Internet of Things or direct wireless communication between objects have increased the need for efficient encryption and information security.

A St. Pölten UAS project is currently developing a new method for encrypting data for autonomous driving and the Internet of Things. With new computer technologies, which will become available in the future, the technique should make communication even more secure.

New methods of encryption

In order to exchange information during autonomous driving, vehicles must communicate with each other. Communication that could be tampered with is not only a matter of IT-security, it can endanger human lives. A crucial issue in communication between vehicles is secure encryption of the information.

Thus far, mathematical processes have been used for encryption. However, digital wireless communication with sensitive data such as in the Internet of Things (IoT) or autonomous driving will require new methods that can also be securely used in future technologies, e.g. with quantum computers. For this purpose, St. Pölten UAS is developing a new approach with project "KIF - Kryptografie mit Integration von Funkmessdaten“(Cryptography with the Integration of Radio-Measurement Data). Instead of mathematical processes for generating cryptographic keys, radio data is being used.

"Transportation infrastructure is designed and laid out for at least 20 years. Quantum computers with sufficient speeds for practical use can be expected at the latest in 15 years. Current methods for object-/data-authentication and the checking of data integrity will, for security reasons, no longer be usable. We are therefore already looking for an approach based on physical methods that will still be secure with quantum computing", said Ernst Piller, Head of the project and the Institute of IT Security Research at St. Pölten UAS.

Radio data for encrypting communication

The foundation of the new method is the generation and distribution of cryptographic keys based on the measurement of radio-channel characteristics of a high-frequency radio transmission. In vehicles for example, both objects (transmitter and receiver) will measure radio signals as well as reflective echoes of the signal and their delay.

"This pattern of main signal and delayed echoes is random and only on both receiver sides the same. This makes it possible to produce random data that can be used for generation of the key and cannot be intercepted by potential attackers", explained Piller.

According to Piller, similar approaches already exist, but the project being carried out at St. Pölten UAS takes into account some specific factors that apply to autonomous driving wherein secure communication could be impeded. These include: possible high vehicle speeds, rapidly alternating vehicles, high numbers of vehicles, usually very short communication times and environmental interference. The goal is a cost-effective product for practical use.

Project KIF – highly secure, long-term cryptography for wireless communication with the integration of radio-measurement data

The research project is financed by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology within the framework of the Austrian Security Research Programme KIRAS. Partners in the project are Cryptas it-Security GmbH, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), ASFINAG and the Federal Ministry of Defence and Sport (BMLVS).