Lexus bad-update details

A bad update on Lexus cars crashed its car entertainment system, affecting cars from California to Massachusetts. Details were reported  by SecurityLedger this week.

Users need to bring in their car to a Toyota/Lexus dealer to solve the problem via a forced reset and clear the bad data from the system. The bad behavior is due to incorrect handling of error data returned from third party web services.

“As more automakers embrace over-the-air software updates as a way to push out necessary fixes to vehicle owners, the prospect of unreliable and malicious updates causing real world disruptions has grown. In a March report to Congress (PDF), the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that modern vehicles feature many communications interfaces that are vulnerable to attack, but that measures to address those threats are likely years away, as automakers work to design more secure in-vehicle systems.” – SecurityLedger quote.

Updates and secure updates have not been a well-solved problem in the software world. A backup is usually recommended, but not always possible. Bringing the same solutions to cars and IoT seems like a bad idea.  The need for secure OTA auto updates to work has been noted, for e.g. at the “Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program” here and here. Yet it has not been a prominent part of the automotive manufacturers’ lexicon.

As we move towards autonomous cars and a corresponding increase in complexity, these problems would need to be solved in more elegant way.

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