Enabling Real-Time Restoration of Compromised ECU Firmware in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Computer Science


With increasing development of connected and autonomous vehicles, the risk of cyber threats on them is also increasing. Compared to traditional computer systems, a CAV attack is more critical, as it does not only threaten confidential data or system access, but may endanger the lives of drivers and passengers. To control a vehicle, the attacker may inject malicious control messages into the vehicle’s controller area network. To make this attack persistent, the most reliable method is to inject malicious code into an electronic control unit’s firmware. This allows the attacker to inject CAN messages and exhibit significant control over the vehicle, posing a safety threat to anyone in proximity. In this work, we have designed a defensive framework which allows restoring compromised ECU firmware in real time. Our framework combines existing intrusion detection methods with a firmware recovery mechanism using trusted hardware components equipped in ECUs. Especially, the firmware restoration utilizes the existing FTL in the flash storage device. This process is highly efficient by minimizing the necessary restored information. Further, the recovery is managed via a trusted application running in TrustZone secure world. Both the FTL and TrustZone are secure when the ECU firmware is compromised. Steganography is used to hide communications during recovery. We have implemented and evaluated our prototype implementation in a testbed simulating the real-world in-vehicle scenario.

Publication Title

Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social-Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, LNICST