The expansion of EV chargers has become a pivotal aspect of global sustainability efforts. As governments and corporations worldwide invest heavily in electric vehicles and their supporting networks, a critical yet often overlooked aspect emerges: the security of EV charging management software.
We consulted N-iX experts in EV charging cybersecurity and compiled the list of vulnerabilities to which EV chargers are exposed and ways to address them effectively. Let’s explore the latest advancements in cybersecurity protocols, the role of regulatory frameworks, and the importance of collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders.
Security risks of EV charging management software
The cybersecurity risks associated with electric vehicle chargers are an important aspect to consider, especially as these chargers often connect to networks for remote monitoring and control.
Here are the main risks of EV charging cybersecurity.
1. Data breaches
EV chargers can collect personal data, such as payment information, charging patterns, and vehicle details. So, data breaches represent a significant cybersecurity concern for EV charging management software. These breaches can occur when unauthorized individuals access the data transmitted or stored by EV charging stations or their networks.
To address these risks, it's crucial to implement robust cybersecurity measures. This includes encryption of data transmission, regular security audits, user authentication processes, and compliance with data protection regulations. With our robust cybersecurity expertise, N-iX can help strengthen your security with encryption, access controls, detection systems, regular checks, and employee training.
2. Network vulnerability
EV chargers connected to a network can potentially become entry points for cyberattacks on broader systems. An attacker could exploit vulnerabilities in the charger to gain access to the network it's connected to, including corporate or home networks. These vulnerabilities may include:
- Interconnectivity risks:
EV chargers are often part of a larger connected network. Vulnerabilities in one part of the network can potentially be exploited to access other parts, leading to widespread issues.
- Remote access and control:
EV chargers are frequently managed remotely, which, while convenient, also opens up space for cyberattacks. Hackers could potentially gain control of the charging process or access sensitive data.
- Firmware and software updates:
If the software or firmware of EV chargers is not regularly updated, it can lead to vulnerabilities. Outdated systems are easier for cybercriminals to exploit.
- Wireless communication interception:
EV chargers that communicate data wirelessly are at risk of interception and eavesdropping, which can lead to data breaches or unauthorized access.
- Physical security concerns:
The physical security of EV charging stations is also crucial. If the hardware can be easily tampered with, it poses a risk to the entire network.
3. Denial of service attacks
EV chargers are susceptible to denial of service attacks, where the chargers are overloaded with requests or malicious commands, rendering them inoperable. This can disrupt charging infrastructure and services.
4. Firmware manipulation
If an attacker manages to alter the firmware of an EV charger, they could potentially cause physical damage to the charger or the connected vehicle or alter the functioning of the charger in harmful ways.
For companies operating EV charging stations, these risks can lead not only monetary and legal troubles but also to reputational damage and loss of consumer trust. So, it is vital to build your EV charger management software and hardware with them in mind. But how to do it? Our experts have shared some thoughts.
EV charger security: a guide for manufacturers
What are the best practices and key considerations for manufacturers aiming to enhance the security of EV chargers? Let’s find out.
1. Find a skilled cybersecurity team
As the landscape of cyber threats is constantly evolving, the expertise of a skilled cybersecurity team is invaluable. The reason for this is that identifying and mitigating risks that may not be immediately apparent to those outside the field.
Such a team plays a vital role in safeguarding EV charger management software against a wide array of cyber threats by adhering to the best practices.
2. Use OCPP 2.0.1 with Transport Layer Security (TLS) with Client Side Certificates profile
OCPP is an application-level protocol for communicating between the EV charging station and the charging operator. It provides functionality for charging operator to authorize access, configure charging stations, update their firmware, and integrate different payment and billing systems.
This is important, as the OCPP version 2.0.1 (latest as of November 2023) contains such security features as secure firmware updates, security logging and event notification, and security profiles for authentication.
Moreover, OCPP supports the following security profiles:
- Unsecured transport with basic authentication
- TLS with basic authentication
- TLS with client-side certificates
Our experts recommend using this protocol with the TLS with Client Side Certificates, as it is the most protected security profile of OCPP 2.0.1.
3. Use ISO15118 with TLS communication
ISO 15118 is an internationally recognized standard that facilitates bidirectional charging and discharging processes for EVs. This standard offers a suite of significant benefits, including intelligent charging capabilities, secure communication protocols, and the innovative Plug & Charge feature.
At its core, ISO 15118 employs TLS to establish a secure connection between the electric vehicle and the charging station, ensuring data integrity and confidentiality during the communication process. This security measure is integral in safeguarding against potential cyber threats and maintaining robust data protection.
4. Implement Plug & Charge communication
OCPP 2.0.1, an enhanced version of the Open Charge Point Protocol, integrates the ISO 15118 standard, enabling the advanced Plug & Charge feature. This integration facilitates a user-independent charging process, where interaction from the vehicle owner is not required. It establishes a secure communication channel directly from the electric vehicle to the charging operator, ensuring a seamless and secure exchange of data throughout the charging process. This feature represents a significant stride in the evolution of EV charging technology, combining ease of use with robust security measures.
5. Regularly update firmware
To mitigate security vulnerabilities, it is imperative that firmware updates be conducted periodically. Ensuring the security of these updates involves several critical steps:
- Cryptographic signature: The firmware image must be cryptographically signed, utilizing a method that guarantees its authenticity and integrity. This cryptographic signature ensures that the firmware has not been tampered with and is from a trusted source.
- Secure transmission: The transmission of the firmware image should occur over a secured channel. This measure is crucial to protect the firmware from interception or alteration during the transfer process.
- Protocol support: The OCPP inherently supports firmware update functionality, providing a standardized method for securely managing and deploying firmware updates to charging stations.
Moreover, it is crucial to maintain the validity of certificates by ensuring their periodic renewal. Our experts recommend that this renewal process be undertaken at least annually to guarantee continuous security and compliance.
6. Test your solution
Testing an electric vehicle charger is key for its safety, efficiency, and compatibility with different EV models. Proper testing helps lower the cost of developing EV chargers. By testing during development, you can find and fix big errors and improve efficiency, which saves money. Second, it speeds up how fast you can bring your charger to the market, as finding and solving problems quickly means you can launch your product faster.
Making an electric vehicle charger secure is a complex task due to the advanced technology and evolving cyber risks involved. It's important to have strong security measures in place for these chargers, given their growing role in the EV market. If you're unsure about the security of your charger or need expert advice, feel free to contact N-iX. Our team has the knowledge and experience to help ensure your charging system is safe, efficient, and trustworthy. With our support, you can confidently address the security challenges of EV charging management software.
EV charger development: get a guide to building your own solution
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