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8 June, 2020 - 11:19 By Tony Quested

Cambridge duo in automotive cyber security drive

Cambridge-based UltraSoC and Canis Automotive Labs have joined forces to counter one of the most serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the automotive industry. They are tackling the lack of security features within the CAN bus, which is commonly used to interconnect in-vehicle systems such as brakes, steering, engine, airbags, door locks, and headlights.

The partnership is designed to produce hardware-based intrusion detection and mitigation techniques for common exploits on the CAN bus. These include automatic hardware anti-spoofing; defence against bit-level attacks such as the Bus-Off attack and bit-glitching; and resistance to denial of service (DoS) style attacks. 

The collaboration focuses on the deployment of Canis Labs’ CAN-HG technology, a new fully-compatible augmentation of the standard CAN bus protocol that includes bus guardian security features and has the added benefit of being able to carry payloads twelve times larger than standard CAN frames.

When combined with UltraSoC’s semiconductor IP for detection and mitigation of cyber threats, CAN-HG allows designers to secure their CAN bus designs at the hardware level.

The cybersecurity capabilities enabled by the collaboration employ fast bits within the CAN-HG augmented part of a CAN frame to add security information to CAN frames. 

This can be used by UltraSoC’s protocol-aware monitoring hardware to identify and block suspicious or unauthorised traffic traveling over CAN. These new capabilities will be refined and proved for deployment as part of Secure-CAV: an ambitious project that seeks to improve the safety and security of tomorrow’s connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

Canis operates R&D centres in the UK near Cambridge and in Switzerland near Zurich. Canis Automotive Labs was founded in 2016 to provide innovative security technology to the automotive industry. It developed the CAN-HG protocol as an extension to CAN and also the Mercury chip, the first product to implement CAN-HG.

Canis was started by industry veterans Antal Rajnák (CEO) and Dr Ken Tindell (CTO) who have a track record in successful automotive startups, including Volcano Communications Technologies (sold to Mentor Graphics) and LiveDevices (sold to Bosch).


Canis Automotive Labs CEO Antal Rajnák with CTO Dr Ken Tindell

 They also have a track record in successful automotive technology: Rajnák is the instigator of the LIN protocol used in all cars in production today and Tindell originated CAN bus timing analysis and the design of the priority transmit buffer scheme used in most CAN controllers. Together they received the 1999 Volvo Technology Award for Multiplex For Volvo Car Corporation.

Aileen Ryan, UltraSoC CSO, said: “Automotive cybersecurity requires an ecosystem approach. We’re delighted to add Canis Labs to our list of partners working in this area, which already includes NSITEXE-DENSO and Agile Analog; as well as our partners in the Secure-CAV project, Copper Horse and the Universities of Coventry and Southampton.

“Up to now the industry has been forced to use sticking plaster solutions to defend CAN interconnect, relying on software techniques or perimeter security. Incorporating Canis Labs’ innovative CAN-HG technology into UltraSoC’s products allows us to secure the vehicle ‘from the inside out’: within the underlying electronic hardware.”

CAN emerged in the 1980s in response to the need for an efficient, lightweight interconnection method that could cope with the harsh environments found in vehicles. Today it remains a common choice not only in the automotive industry but also in industrial, cyberphysical and robotics applications, where safety is paramount.

Most existing approaches to CAN security are software-based, meaning that they are often unable to react quickly enough to prevent protocol-level attacks. 

Because it is hardware based, a joint Canis Labs/UltraSoC solution can react quickly enough to prevent an attack from completing. 

SimpleMachines

UltraSoC’s embedded analytics technology has been selected by SimpleMachines, Inc (SMI) for use within SMI’s innovative Composable Computing Platform. UltraSoC’s technology will allow SMI and its customers to gain an intimate understanding of the behaviour of the hardware and software within the company’s products, which are targeted at a diverse range of demanding applications such as security, visual cognition, language comprehension and web-scale personalisation.

SMI’s solutions employ a fundamentally new, patented processor architecture which is designed to be fully customisable to achieve maximum utilisation of on-chip resources, making it suitable for a vast range of applications from artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge to web-scale and high-performance computing.


Gajinder Panesar, CTO of UltraSoC

Gajinder Panesar, CTO of UltraSoC, said: “SimpleMachines’ Composable Computing concept is a genuine game-changer for emerging data-driven applications. The problems they’re addressing are traditionally seen as needing a hard-wired solution – and often that means costly and time-consuming ASIC development. 

“Clever new hardware architectures also often overlook how the software developer will use, debug, or understand that architecture. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work with SMI and to support the team as they deliver solutions to arguably some of the world’s trickiest computing problems.”

New VP of Software

UltraSoC has appointed Jonathan Lucas as VP of Software. His 30 years of software engineering and senior management experience, with specific strengths in embedded and machine-learning systems, will support the application of the company’s analytics technology in emerging data-centric applications including automotive and cybersecurity. 

Lucas was Director of Physical Layer Software at Icera, whose wireless modem technology was acquired by NVIDIA in 2011. Since then he was a co-founder and Technical Director at Five, the autonomous driving stack development company; and most recently with Folio Intelligence, a machine-learning fintech company.


 Jonathan Lucas, VP of Software at UltraSoC

 

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