Michigan defense engineers train for future of automotive security

Nefarious actors, from nation state adversaries to basement hackers, present a constant threat to computer-based systems. Fortunately, U.S. military and other associates are working even harder to create an ironclad defense against such attacks.

With a new cyber hub now in place at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, professionals in the field of cyber security are keeping strides ahead of cyber threats by learning the most effective security methods.

The cyber hub at TARDEC, unveiled in September, is the newest of 11 existing hubs on the Michigan Cyber Range, a key initiative of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s cyber initiative of 2011. Hubs exist on-site at academic institutions and military and government entities, says Jeff Jaczkowski, associate director of ground systems cyber engineering at TARDEC.

“The Cyber Range itself is a virtual connected network that links these hubs together to enable a variety of functions having to do with cyber security training, testing, and workforce development today,” says Jaczkowski. TARDEC’s mission is to ensure existing tanks, trucks, and ground systems are secure against cyber attack, and to design and develop new systems using resilient engineering architecture from the ground up.A simulation called Alphaville is used by cybersecurity professionals to learn to thwart cyber attacks on infrastructure.

Existing local hubs include Selfridge Air Force Base, Wayne State University, Pinckney High School, and the Velocity Center at the Macomb-OU Incubator, with others scattered strategically across the state. Two new cyber hubs are planned at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and University of Michigan-Flint. At these hubs, individuals can access experiential learning and certification for all compliance requirements and frameworks, including NIST, NICE, NSA, and DoD 8570.

Michigan is home to Department of Defense R&D and procurement facilities that support the development of “dual-use technologies” for both commercial automotive and military, says Sarah Tennant, strategic advisor of cybersecurity initiatives at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. A robust cybersecurity community is critical to the whole range of Michigan’s industries.

“The hub at TARDEC is just one more example of the Michigan’s proactive approach to enhancing the cybersecurity ecosystem in Michigan, by building a robust cybersecurity community connecting not only the defense and automotive industries but all industries in our state,” says Tennant.

TARDEC’s cyber hub can be configured as a virtual sandbox with Alphaville, a computerized 3-D representation of a city, complete with power grid and underlying infrastructure. In future, vehicles will be added to develop tactics for vehicular hacking incidents, says Jaczkowski.

An immediate plan is to train everyone on the ground systems cyber engineering team, which, at 41 employees, has doubled in size in the past year, and will serve as the center of cybersecurity awareness for TARDEC. Training has also been extended to other Detroit Arsenal tenants.

Cyber threats are ever-evolving, but Jaczkowski’s team is laser-focused on the range of potential attacks, including insider, nearsider, and supply chain threats. Damage can result in denial of commands, uncommanded movements, or defects and mechanical phantoms that require inordinate vehicle downtime.

“Nation states have the capacity to develop and launch a sophisticated attack,” he says. “One of our biggest concerns is not the point of attack on a single vehicle, but the scalable attack across a fleet of vehicles done at the time of choosing of the adversary.”

An advanced, layered approach to cybersecurity involves techniques to recognize threat, attack the invader, and render the system impervious to future invasions.

“We have a technical roadmap beyond the next five years, and we will be pulling in artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop a cyber solution that is akin to the body’s immune system,” says Jaczkowski.

“The research we are doing today in the lab is addressing real world-grade problems, and we are creating the ability to enable our vehicles to operate more effectively and efficiently,” Jaczkowski says.”In the end, it’s delivering a capability to the warfighter to conduct his or her mission safely and effectively and win our nation’s wars.”

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    The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) has a singular mission: To provide warfighters with advanced technological solutions to ground vehicle systems challenges. To protect the safety of civilians and its ...
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