Coventry University and Crypta Labs investigate quantum technology for CAV security

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A new UK government-funded project will see researchers and quantum technology experts investigate how security systems based on the randomness of light can help protect connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) from cyberattacks.

There are fears that CAVS, which include driverless cars and vehicles that have internet connectivity, could be hijacked by criminals with equipment as basic as publicly available software and a laptop computer.

However, this new project – involving the cybersecurity group at Coventry University’s Institute for Future Transport and Cities (FTC), and a team of quantum experts at London-based cybersecurity startup Crypta Labs – aims to improve their security and consequently the safety of their drivers and passengers.

The 12-month project is funded by the Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through InnovateUK, under the government’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles 2 scheme.

The weakest link in current encryption systems is a reliance on numbers that are not truly random and which can put the vehicles at risk of being hacked. But Crypta Labs has developed a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) based on the randomness derived from the quantum properties of light.

This QRNG can acquire a true random number by using the behavior of light particles called photons, as they act in a completely random way. The project will assess the technical and commercial feasibility of applying Crypta Labs’ system to connected and autonomous vehicles ahead of the company rolling out and commercializing its technology internationally.

“The threats surrounding connected and autonomous vehicles are developing rapidly, as cyber criminals learn new ways to target these cars and crack their encryption systems,” noted Professor Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, of Coventry University’s FTC, and the academic principal investigator of the project.

“There could be significant consequences for the safety of drivers and passengers if any of these autonomous or connected cars were to be hacked and onboard control systems compromised to disrupt moving vehicles. There’s a real need for new approaches to address these problems.”

Joe Luong, CEO of Crypta Labs, added, “We are delighted to collaborate with Coventry University to embark upon solving one of the biggest problems to face connected and autonomous vehicles, namely how to secure internal systems to prevent hackers from breaking into future driverless cars.

“We believe Quantum Random Number Generation technology can have profound applications for transport and vehicle security. The project will serve to be a critical link in assessing how QRNG-based security could strengthen connected and autonomous vehicles.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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