• Tim Cosgrove

O2 develops cybersecurity blueprint for self-driving cars

  • O2 completes Innovate UK-funded project looking at the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of connected and autonomous vehicles

  • Working with Cisco, Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick, and Millbrook Proving Ground, O2 has helped develop a blueprint to help protect the UK’s self-driving cars from cyber-vulnerabilities

  • The project comes at a critical time for the growing connected and autonomous vehicle market, as the industry is projected to be worth £28 billion by 20351

O2 has completed a project funded by Innovate UK, the UK Government-funded innovation agency, and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) to support the development of cybersecurity testing capabilities. O2 provided access to its technical subject matter experts during the 12-week-long Baselining, Automation and Response for CAV Testbed (BeARCAT) cybersecurity project, working alongside partners including technology company Cisco, Millbrook Proving Ground, and Warwick Manufacturing Group, the engineering, manufacturing, and technology department at the University of Warwick.

O2’s cybersecurity experts were responsible for determining the types of cyberattack and attackers that pose a threat to CAV networks2.  Their investigation focused on developing models that could be used to classify, manage, and mitigate cybersecurity risks for intelligent transport systems, which will be vital for ensuring the safety and security of road users in the future.

The security of the UK’s transport system has never been more important, and this will only increase with time as cyberattacks become more complex and sophisticated. One Cabinet Office report3 calculated that cybercrime costs the UK economy £27 billion annually, £21 billion of that to businesses, £3.1 billion to citizens, and £2.2 billion to the Government. Given the anticipated growth rates of the automotive cybersecurity market and the UK CAV market – estimated to be worth £28 billion in 20351 – project BeARCAT generated valuable insights into the risks and challenges of the deployment of connected and automated mobility in public areas.

The project, which was led by Cisco and conceived at Millbrook Proving Ground, a leading vehicle testing facility in Bedford, ran from 1 January to 31 March 2020. As a feasibility study, recommendations were put forward by the consortium to Innovate UK to form the basis of a future cybersecurity CAV test facility, which outlined the design, development, and trialling of the outputs of the phase 1 study.

This news follows the announcement in September 2019 that O2 would provide the connectivity for a new ‘Smart Ambulance’ at Millbrook Proving Ground as part of a trial to revolutionise patient diagnosis and early treatment, meaning that visits to hospitals are minimised as well as providing an improvement in clinical outcomes.

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO at O2 said: “If connected and autonomous vehicles are going to become a permanent fixture in our day-to-day lives, it will be critical that governments and the public feel reassured that this technology is secure from cyber-attacks. We’re proud to have worked alongside other sector leaders to create a cybersecurity blueprint that will help the UK lead the way when it comes to innovation in the intelligent transportation systems of the future.”

Peter Stoker, Chief Engineer – Connected & Autonomous Vehicles at Millbrook said: “BeARCAT has been a great opportunity to bring together sector experts over the course of this study: O2’s in-depth telecommunications knowledge, Cisco’s insights, and Warwick Manufacturing Group’s academic vigour all brought something new to Millbrook and our testing business. Looking to the future, it’s clear that the UK is well positioned to be one of the leaders in testing connected vehicles in a controlled environment.”

Professor Carsten Maple, Warwick Manufacturing Group and Principal Investigator of the NCSC-EPSRC Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at the University of Warwick said: “BeARCAT has provided the Warwick Manufacturing Group with a fantastic opportunity to work with leading organisations O2, Cisco and Millbrook. The collaborative effort has led to us taking our research from the academic into the practical environment and allowed us to shape the future of automotive cybersecurity in the UK.”

Joel Obstfeld, Distinguished Engineer in Cisco’s Emerging Technology and Incubation Team said: “The BeARCAT project brought together expertise from key sectors to the CAV ecosystem. From the operational expertise of the O2’s cybersecurity experts, Millbrook’s experience in the testing environment, the academic research capabilities of WMG, to Cisco’s expertise in networks and security services, BeARCAT offers a great example of the cross-disciplinary thinking required to create a viable testing framework to address cybersecurity challenges for CAVs in the UK.”

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