Navigating the Automotive Cybersecurity Landscape: A Guide to Compliance and Security

Technology has become inseparable from our lives, and automobiles are no exception. 

According to Upstream Security’s 2022 Global Automotive Cybersecurity Report, a staggering 84.5% of automotive attacks were carried out remotely, highlighting the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures. Moreover, the report underscores that 40.1% of incidents targeted back-end server attacks, showcasing the complex nature of modern automotive threats.

This ISMS Connect article explores the complex realm of automotive cybersecurity, including the various risks that the industry encounters and the importance of protecting both vehicles and user data. Our goal is to simplify this crucial topic and provide readers with practical knowledge.

Let’s get started.

What Is Automotive Cybersecurity?

Automotive cybersecurity protects electronic systems, communication networks, software, and data within vehicles from a range of threats, including:

  • Malicious attacks
  • Unauthorized access
  • Manipulation

To mitigate these threats, organizations must establish robust management systems that protect car safety, user privacy, and brand reputation.

At ISMS Connect, we help businesses accomplish this by simplifying the complex landscape of information security management through guides, templates, on-demand expert support and access to an active community. This enables SMBs to achieve certification without exorbitant costs or inflexible consulting services.

Different Types of Automotive Cybersecurity Attacks

Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

Protecting automotive cybersecurity is crucial not only for individual vehicles but also for critical infrastructure supporting modern societies. 

Upstream Security’s recent report highlights the growing prevalence of remote attacks, which can have significant national consequences. A scenario where a malicious actor orchestrates a nationwide vehicle lockdown, demanding ransom and causing traffic to halt, could have catastrophic results. It is urgent to implement comprehensive safeguards to prevent such an outcome.

Attacks on the Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has introduced a new connectivity layer, enabling devices to communicate and share data seamlessly. This innovation, however, is not without risks. Vulnerabilities in IoT devices, even within vehicles, provide potential entry points for cybercriminals. While in-vehicle systems might be Isolated to some extent, the interaction with external IoT networks introduces potential vulnerabilities that must be addressed.


Ransomware, a widespread threat in the digital realm, has extended its reach into the automotive industry. Cybercriminals can hold data hostage, disrupting operations and demanding hefty ransoms. These attacks can result in financial distress, operational disruption, and reputational damage for automotive businesses.

Phishing Attacks

Social engineering, particularly in the form of phishing attacks, remains a potent method for infiltrating automotive networks. Cybercriminals can gain unauthorized access to systems by posing as trusted entities, leading to data breaches and potential network compromise. A well-informed workforce armed with cybersecurity awareness training is vital to mitigating such risks.

Why is Automotive Cybersecurity Important?

Protects the Vehicle

For a long time, people have relied on physical measures like alarms and locks to keep their vehicles secure. However, as vehicles become more connected to the internet and software-dependent, these traditional defenses are no longer enough. Cybersecurity threats can easily bypass them, leaving the vehicle vulnerable to remote control and hacking by skilled attackers.

Protects User Information

Modern vehicles are no longer just modes of transportation—they’re data-rich machines, capturing and processing personal information. Vehicles store sensitive information, from location data to financial details. Robust cybersecurity measures are crucial to preventing unauthorized access to this data and protecting users from potential identity theft and privacy breaches.

Maintains Regulatory Compliance

To guarantee the well-being of drivers and passengers, governments and regulators are introducing regulations and guidelines that enforce minimum cybersecurity standards. Complying with these regulations is crucial for legal adherence and demonstrates an organization’s dedication to protecting its customers and products.

How to Secure Automotive Cybersecurity Compliance

1. Understand Automotive Cybersecurity Regulations

In recent years, governments and regulatory bodies worldwide have recognized the critical importance of cybersecurity in the automotive sector. Standards such as ISO®/SAE 21434UNECE R155, TISAX®, ISO® 27001, and others have been established to set minimum requirements for cybersecurity processes, testing, and risk management. 

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ISMS Connect provides a range of templates and guides that assist in creating policies and procedures that align seamlessly with regulatory standards. Whether you’re crafting cybersecurity policies or risk assessment strategies, ISMS Connect’s guides, expert rounds, and templates can help steer you in the right direction.

2. Use Penetration Testing and Security Operation Centers (SOCs)

To ensure the efficacy of your cybersecurity measures, penetration testing is essential. This process involves simulating cyberattacks to identify vulnerabilities within your systems. Penetration testing should be carried out regularly to stay ahead of potential threats. 

Security Operation Centers (SOCs) also play a crucial role in real-time threat detection and response. By monitoring network activities and analyzing potential risks, SOCs enable swift action in the event of a cyber incident.

ISMS Connect offers insights into how penetration testing should be integrated into your cybersecurity strategy. By understanding common vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors, you can collaborate effectively with penetration testers to identify and address weaknesses proactively.

3. Implement ISO®/SAE 21434

ISO®/SAE 21434, “Road Vehicles – Cybersecurity Engineering,” provides a comprehensive framework for managing cybersecurity risk throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle. This standard outlines requirements for cybersecurity processes, testing, verification, and adherence to cybersecurity best practices.

Implementing ISO®/SAE 21434 involves:

  • Security Testing and Verification: Conduct comprehensive cybersecurity testing with adequate coverage to identify vulnerabilities. It should cover both system-level and hardware-level aspects to ensure a thorough examination of potential security risks. For instance, a car manufacturer implementing ISO/SAE 21434 might conduct penetration testing on the vehicle’s infotainment system to identify potential vulnerabilities. They might also perform hardware-level testing on the vehicle’s Electronic Control Units (ECUs) to ensure they are resistant to physical tampering. The goal is to verify that the cybersecurity measures in place are effective and that the system is resilient against potential cyber threats.
  • Cybersecurity Processes and Policies: Develop and enforce clear cybersecurity processes and policies within your organization. These processes should be integrated into every stage of vehicle development, from concept to decommissioning. An example could be a car manufacturer developing a policy that requires all software developers to undergo secure coding training. Having well-defined processes and policies helps ensure that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining cybersecurity.   The process might also include regular security audits and code reviews to catch and rectify any security lapses.
  • Security by Design: Prioritize “Security by Design” principles, embedding cybersecurity considerations from the earliest planning and design stages. A practical example of this could be a car manufacturer considering cybersecurity during the design of a new vehicle model. This might involve selecting hardware components that have built-in security features, designing software with robust authentication mechanisms, and ensuring secure communication between different vehicle systems. This approach ensures that security is not an afterthought but an integral part of the development process. Consequently, it can lead to more robust security measures, as it allows for the early identification and mitigation of potential security risks.

4. Foster a Culture of Cybersecurity

Achieving and maintaining automotive cybersecurity compliance is not solely about meeting regulatory standards—it’s about cultivating a culture of cybersecurity vigilance. 

Cybersecurity awareness training empowers your workforce to recognize potential threats and take preventive measures. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity, organizations can ensure that every employee becomes an active participant in safeguarding sensitive data and systems.

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ISMS Connect can guide you in implementing effective cybersecurity awareness training programs. ISMS Connect empowers your employees to identify and respond to cyber threats by providing practical scenarios, case studies, and training materials.

Automotive Cybersecurity Best Practices

Create an Incident Response Plan

A well-structured incident response plan serves as a roadmap in times of crisis. It outlines the steps an organization should take in the event of a cyber incident, facilitating a swift and effective response. Such plans are pivotal in minimizing the impact of data breaches and maintaining business continuity.

Develop an Effective Communication Strategy

Effective communication during a cybersecurity incident is crucial. Internally and externally, stakeholders need to be informed promptly and transparently. By having a well-defined communication strategy, an organization can manage the fallout of an incident while preserving its reputation.

Consider Risk Assessment and Management Strategies

Manufacturers must implement risk assessment frameworks to address emerging vulnerabilities and cybersecurity risks. These frameworks systematically evaluate threats and implement targeted countermeasures, fostering a proactive cybersecurity culture.

Think in Terms of the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL)

The notion of cybersecurity must be integrated throughout a vehicle’s entire lifecycle, from design to post-development stages. By considering cybersecurity during the planning and design phases, organizations can proactively address vulnerabilities and ensure vehicles remain secure even as technology evolves.

Implement Training and Awareness Programs

A well-trained workforce is the first line of defense against cyber threats. Cybersecurity awareness training equips employees with the knowledge to identify potential attacks and take preventive measures. This training fosters a culture of cybersecurity vigilance throughout the organization.


It’s clear that the automotive industry’s future is closely linked to technology, which offers improved safety, convenience, and connectivity. However, the shift to digital also means new and evolving cyber threats. To confidently move forward, the industry needs to adopt strong cybersecurity practices, follow regulations, and take advantage of resources like ISMS Connect.

At ISMS Connect, we offer SMBs access to a wealth of information and guidance through document templates, implementation guides, and on-demand expert support. With access to the information you need, you’re empowered to implement an effective cybersecurity strategy.

Get started with ISMS Connect today.