Future-Proofing Forces: Tackling Cyber and Electric Hurdles in Modern Military Fleets

by | Jun 6, 2024

The landscape of military operations is poised for a transformative shift as Western nations such as the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia explore incorporating electric vehicles (EVs) into their fleets. This transition, driven by the dual goals of modernization and reducing carbon emissions, heralds a new era in military mobility. However, the path to electrification is riddled with a myriad of cybersecurity challenges that pose potential threats to national security and operational effectiveness.

At the core of this technological evolution is a complex interplay between the advantages of electrification and the vulnerabilities introduced by cyber threats. These vulnerabilities are not exclusive to electric vehicles; traditional combustion-powered vehicles, depending on their level of digital integration, are also susceptible to hacking. The incorporation of connected vehicles, which rely on various software developed by numerous suppliers, further complicates the automotive supply chain, creating multiple potential threat vectors.

Modern military vehicles are technological marvels, boasting increasingly sophisticated onboard electronics. An average road vehicle today may contain up to 100 million lines of code in its software. Electric vehicles, in particular, depend heavily on a computerized and connected charging infrastructure, which introduces additional cyber vulnerabilities. The convergence of electrification and vehicle connectivity heightens the risks associated with data collection and exchange within military vehicles. This opens the door to malicious activities such as espionage, tracking movements, or monitoring sensitive installations.

The onboard electronics designed to perform various functions in vehicles provide potential channels for hackers to exploit and compromise vehicle systems. Such breaches could endanger lives and impair operational effectiveness. Compromised charging stations represent another potential vector for cyber attacks, potentially leading to data extraction, disruption of charging cycles, or even physical damage to the vehicles themselves.

To mitigate these risks, proactive cybersecurity measures are imperative. Security by design involves integrating cybersecurity imperatives into the design and development processes of both vehicles and charging systems. This includes setting rigorous standards and conducting thorough threat assessments. Securing the cyber supply chain is crucial to ensure that components and software for vehicles come from trusted suppliers. Red teaming practices, which involve testing system vulnerabilities through ethical hacking and penetration testing, play a pivotal role in enhancing cyber resilience.

Ensuring secure data flows through encryption technologies is paramount in protecting the data exchanged between networked infrastructure and vehicles. Resilience measures at both the human and operational levels are vital in preparing for potential cyber attacks on fleet vehicles. Contingency plans should be in place, and troops should be trained to navigate these contingencies effectively. Exercises in digitally degraded environments help units identify compromised systems, maintain reliability, and promptly remediate vulnerabilities.

As cybersecurity is a dynamic field, constant updates and improvements are essential for securing future electric and connected military vehicles and charging infrastructures. Establishing high cybersecurity standards from the outset is crucial to restrict adversary freedom and invest in protecting military vehicles against cyber threats. The investments made today in securing military vehicles may act as a deterrent to adversaries aiming to compromise them in the future.

The evolving nature of cybersecurity means that defenders and attackers are in a constant race to outmaneuver each other. The cybersecurity of future military vehicles is pivotal in minimizing threats from various actors, including non-state armed groups. Collaboration with trusted vendors, continuous system updates, and robust data protection measures are essential for enhancing the cybersecurity of military vehicles and charging infrastructures.

The intersection of military electrification and cybersecurity presents a multifaceted challenge for modern Western militaries. As the global market for military electric vehicles continues to expand, addressing cybersecurity concerns becomes increasingly vital. Innovative developments in military mobility, including the adoption of all-electric vehicles and increasing vehicle connectivity, necessitate robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard national security and military operations.

The integration of electric vehicles into modern military fleets ushers in a new era of possibilities and challenges. As militaries navigate the complexities of electrification and vehicle connectivity, it is essential to implement stringent cybersecurity measures to safeguard against potential threats and vulnerabilities. Constant vigilance, collaboration with experts, and investments in cutting-edge technologies will be key in securing the future of electric military vehicles and charging infrastructures. The road ahead may be fraught with challenges, but with foresight and innovation, the future of military electrification can be paved with resilience and security.