Israeli Auto Cybersecurity Startups (2): Every vehicle should meet fighter jet defense standards, says GuardKnox

Kevin Cheng, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Moshe Shlisel, CEO and co-founder of GuardKnox. Credit: GuardKnox

With the global automotive industry moving towards full electrification, future vehicles are positioned to offer increasing levels of autonomy and connectivity, and cybersecurity is expected to become a new dimension of quality for cars.

Among connectivity and cybersecurity solution providers that have emerged in the automotive industry, Israeli startup GuardKnox Cyber Technologies stands out for offering comprehensive cyber defense solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles, adopting methodologies from the aviation industry.

Speaking to DIGITIMES Asia recently, Moshe Shlisel, CEO and co-founder of GuardKnox, explained how the company's products can serve as the foundation for added connectivity, infotainment services, amenities, the shift to Zonal E/E architecture, and vehicle customization while simultaneously protecting software-defined vehicles against potential hacks.

Cybersecurity as foundation for services and personalization

Founded in 2016 by Israel Air Force veterans Moshe Shlisel and Dionis Teshler, GuardKnox leverages its deep roots in defense aviation to provide secure, high-performance, service-oriented, and customized computing solutions for the automotive industry. The company is headquartered in Israel, with subsidiary locations in Germany and Detroit.

Shlisel explained that his passion for automotive cybersecurity was inspired by a desire for safer vehicles and a safer driving environment for his children. It is "GuardKnox's mission to provide automotive OEMs and first-tier suppliers a framework and a platform to develop software-defined vehicles that are secure-by-design," he said.

Stressing the importance of automotive cybersecurity, Shlisel pointed out that hackers could penetrate unsecured vehicles and track the movements and locations of drivers at any moment. Ultimately, malicious actors could lock the drivers inside their vehicles or crash the vehicles into a wall, he said.

According to Shlisel, one of the main differences between automotive cybersecurity and IT methodology is that traditional security measures, such as firewalls, can be attached externally to computers for protection against cyberattacks, but the same approach is not applicable to vehicles.

While most of its competitors have adopted statistical mechanisms and methodologies designed to protect computers, GuardKnox is tackling vehicle cybersecurity problems with a deterministic and layered approach.

"From GuardKnox's perspective, the right way to protect a vehicle is to build several layers of defense with the basic assumption that the first line of defense will be penetrated by hackers," Shlisel said. "The vehicle is the smallest area where our entire family is gathered so the stakes are much, much higher."

GuardKnox's suite of products includes a patented service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework solution that enables added levels of connectivity and customization within each vehicle. The SOA framework, which incorporates a group of components to act as middleware between the operating system and applications or software services, can help simplify a vehicle's development process while giving drivers additional customization options.

The company also offers its Communication Lockdown methodology to ensure the highest level of vehicle security by permitting only authorized communication. The zero-trust method allows no margin for unexpected communication bypassing all messages entering a vehicle's network through routing, content, and contextual layers.

SOA framework with Guardknox components color coded in its branding colors. Credit: Guardknox

SOA framework with GuardKnox components color-coded in its branding colors. Credit: GuardKnox

The Smartphonization of vehicles

Highlighting a new paradigm shift in the automotive industry, Shlisel said future vehicles will have the capability to update and change after they leave dealers, very much like smartphones. "OEMs are turning their attention to developing vehicles in which the driving experience is differentiated by software applications that personalize car features or update functionality," he added.

"Soon we will take the vehicles' ability to transport us from point A to point B for granted, and we will start looking at in-vehicle services, like how we look at the operating system, camera resolution, and data storage size of an iPhone," he explained.

Meanwhile, Shlisel said, "The issue with automotive cybersecurity solutions currently available in the market is industry perception rather than technical."

"Automakers should not only implement a system that reports when vehicles are under cyberattack, but also develop a mechanism that prevents situations in which vehicles can be hacked," he said, suggesting there should also be regulations demanding connected vehicles to have built-in systems that prevent cyberattacks in a measurable way.

MIH and working with global players

With GuardKnox being a member of the Foxconn-initiated MIH (Mobility in Harmony) electric vehicle consortium, Shlisel described the initiative as an amazing opportunity for automakers to build products with a large set of tools.

Shlisel said that GuardKnox is proud to be part of the MIH alliance and that he is confident the company's solutions can help manufacturers build customizable and manageable software-defined vehicles in a relatively short development time.

Since its founding in 2016, GuardKnox has formed partnerships with many well-known companies around the world, including Porsche, Daimler, DXC Technology, NXP Semiconductors, Green Hills Software, Arm, and Carota. The company is also working with companies based in Taiwan and South Korea.

Editor note:

DIGITIMES Asia is publishing a series of interview articles with Israeli startups focusing on cybersecurity. By partnering with Taiwan Trade & Innovation Center, Tel Aviv, DIGITIMES Asia introduces unique cybersecurity solutions for various industries.