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EV Charger Hacking Poses a ‘Catastrophic’ Risk | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Pen Test Partners wrote in its findings that companies were by and large responsive to fixing the vulnerabilities it identified, with ChargePoint and others plugging gaps in less than 24 hours (though one company created a new hole while trying to patch the old one). Project EV did not respond to Pen Test Partners but did eventually implement “strong authentication and authorization.” Experts, however, argue that it’s far past time for the industry to move beyond this whack-a-mole approach to cybersecurity.

“Everybody knows this is an issue and lots of people are trying to figure out how to best solve it,” says Johnson, adding that he has seen progress. For example, many public charging stations have upgraded to more secure methods of transmitting data. But as for a coordinated set of standards, he says, “there’s not much regulation out there.”

There has been some movement toward changing that. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included some $7.5 billion to expand the electric vehicle charging network across the US, and the Biden administration has made cybersecurity part of that initiative. Last fall, the White House convened manufacturers and policymakers to discuss a path toward ensuring that increasingly vital electric vehicle charging hardware is properly protected.

“Our critical infrastructure needs to meet a baseline level of security and resilience,” says Harry Krejsa, chief strategist at the White House Office of the National Cyber Director. He also argued that bolstering EV cybersecurity is as much about building trust as it is mitigating risk. Secure systems, he says, “give us the confidence in our next-generation digital foundations to aim higher than we possibly could have otherwise.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration finalized a rule requiring states to implement “appropriate” cybersecurity strategies for chargers funded under the infrastructure law. But Johnson says the regulation omits devices installed outside that expansion, not to mention the more than 100,000 units already in place nationwide. Plus, he says, states haven’t offered much detail about what they’ll do. “If you drill down into the state plans, you’ll find that they are actually extremely light on cyber requirements,” he says. “The vast majority that I saw just say they will follow best practices.”

Just what constitutes best practice remains ill-defined. Johnson and his colleagues at Sandia published recommendations for charger manufacturers, and he noted that the National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing a framework for fast-charging that could help shape future regulation. But, ultimately, he would like to see something akin to the 2022 Protecting and Transforming Cyber Health Care Act that’s geared toward electric vehicles.

“Regulation is a way to drive the entire industry to improve their baseline security standards,” he says, pointing to recent laws in other countries as models or starting points for policymakers in the United States. Last year, for instance, the United Kingdom rolled out a host of requirements for EV chargers, such as enhanced encryption and authentication standards, tamper detection alerts, and randomized delay functionality.

The latter means that a charger must be able to turn on and off with a random time delay of up to 10 minutes. That would mitigate the impact of all the chargers in an area coming online simultaneously after a power outage or hack. “You don’t get that spike, which is great,” says Munro. “It removes the threat from the power grid.”

Johnson is optimistic that the industry is moving in the right direction, albeit more slowly than is ideal. “I can’t imagine [stricter standards] won’t happen. It’s just taking a long time,” he says. And he certainly doesn’t want to spark undue alarm, but rather apply steady pressure for improvement.

“It’s scary stuff,” he says, “but it shouldn’t be fear-mongering.”


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