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Thapliyal Receives NSF Award to Research Photovoltaic-based Approach to Vehicular Security

Himanshu Thapliyal, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Kentucky, has been awarded funding by the National Science Foundation to explore hardware security measures for vehicle security. His project, “Photovoltaic Based Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs) for Vehicular Security,” will receive approximately $200,000 over the next two years.

Today’s vehicles have approximately 100 million lines of computer code and 60 electronic control units (ECUs), as well as a wide range of computer-enabled technologies such as power and infotainment systems, remote locking and unlocking, remote engine start, etc. With plans underway to include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology in new vehicles, it is expected that there could be as many as 220 million connected cars globally by 2020. However, these embedded devices in vehicles are susceptible to malicious cyber-attacks, such as modifying the in-vehicle system infrastructure, stealing intellectual property (IP) and misusing the vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Fundamental advancements are needed at the hardware and software levels to create a more reliable vehicle security infrastructure. This research investigates the potential use of Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs) as a hardware security approach to simplify or solve many important vehicular security problems, such as ECU piracy, ECU counterfeiting, secure authentication and key management. The proposed work will be performed in collaboration with the vehicular security experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The proposed research could pave the way for the widespread use of photovoltaic-based PUFs to mitigate vehicle cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the impacts of potential attacks, thereby increasing the public safety of American families and securing drivers’ personal data. In addition, the project will lead to a stronger research and education program in vehicular security at the University of Kentucky and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.