USDOT Issues Federal Guidance to the Automotive Industry for Improving Motor Vehicle Cybersecurity

The guidance focuses on layered solutions to ensure that vehicle systems are designed to take appropriate and safe actions

USDOT Issues Federal Guidance to the Automotive Industry for Improving Motor Vehicle Cybersecurity
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November 2, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking a proactive safety approach to protect vehicles from malicious cyber-attacks and unauthorized access by releasing proposed guidance for improving motor vehicle cybersecurity.

"Cybersecurity is a safety issue, and a top priority at the Department," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Our intention with today's guidance is to provide best practices to help protect against breaches and other security failures that can put motor vehicle safety at risk."

The proposed cybersecurity guidance focuses on layered solutions to ensure that vehicle systems are designed to take appropriate and safe actions, even when an attack is successful. The guidance recommends risk-based prioritized identification and protection of critical vehicle controls and consumers' personal data. Further, it recommends that companies should consider the full life-cycle of their vehicles and facilitate rapid response and recovery from cybersecurity incidents.

This guidance also highlights the importance of making cybersecurity a top leadership priority for the automotive industry, and suggests that companies should demonstrate it by allocating appropriate and dedicated resources, and enabling seamless and direct communication channels though organizational ranks related to vehicle cybersecurity matters.

"In the constantly changing environment of technology and cybersecurity, no single or static approach is sufficient," said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. "Everyone involved must keep moving, adapting, and improving to stay ahead of the bad guys."

In addition to product development, the guidance suggests best practices for researching, investigating, testing, and validating cybersecurity measures. NHTSA recommends that the auto industry self-audit and consider vulnerabilities and exploits that may impact their entire supply-chain of operations. The agency also recommends employee training to educate the entire automotive workforce on new cybersecurity practices and to share lessons learned with others.

NHTSA's best practices guidance is based on public feedback gathered by the agency, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

NHTSA is soliciting public comments on the proposed guidance for 30 days. The public can submit feedback by visiting Regulations.gov and searching for docket NHTSA-2016-0104.

An overview of NHTSA's work on vehicle cybersecurity can be found here.