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CAN-SQUARE - Decimeter Level Localization of Electronic Control Units on CAN Buses

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNSC,volume 12972)


The CAN bus survived inside cars for more than three decades due to its simplicity and effectiveness while protecting it calls for solutions that are equally simple and effective. In this work we propose an efficient mechanism that achieves decimeter-level precision in localizing Electronic Control Units (ECUs) on the CAN bus. The proposed methodology requires two connections at the ends of the bus and a single rising edge, i.e., the start of a dominant bit. Since several such rising edges are present in every frame, malicious devices may be easily localized with high accuracy from single frame injections. Our methodology requires only elementary computations, e.g., additions and multiplications, which are trivial to perform and implement. We prove the feasibility of the proposed methodology inside a real car and perform more demanding experiments in a laboratory setup where we record modest overlaps only between nodes that are 10 cm apart. We prove resilience against replacement and insertion attacks as well as against temperature variations in the range of 0–60 \({}^\circ \)C.

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Correspondence to Bogdan Groza .

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Appendix A - Experimental Setup

Figure 16 (i) provides a depiction of our newly built experimental setup which uses an industry grade CAN bus cable. The bus is terminated at each end by a split termination as commonly employed in industry applications with two \(60\,\Omega \) resistors in series (totaling \(120\,\Omega \)) and a capacitor of 10 nF to remove noise.

Fig. 16.
figure 16

The clean network (i) and the network dropped inside a refrigerator at 0 \({}^\circ \)C (ii)

To avoid overloading the picture, only 5 devices are connected to the bus which corresponds to the clean network in Scenario B. Figure 16 (ii) shows the network placed inside the refrigerator where it was kept for 1 h. We intentionally placed the cable and devices in the refrigerator with no attempt to preserve the bus geometry as in the original setup. Somewhat surprising for us, even if the geometry of the bus was changed drastically and the temperature dropped from room temperature 24 \({}^\circ \)C to 0 \({}^\circ \)C, the impact on the reported lengths was insignificant (variations in the order of several centimeters at most). To record data at higher temperature, the clean setup was placed inside a sealed box to avoid heat dissipation and 4 hair-driers were used to heat it for 30 min at 50 \({}^\circ \)C and 60 \({}^\circ \)C.

Appendix B - BCW and FWD-SQUARE Algorithms

Algorithm 1 presents the bus monitor which reads voltage samples on CAN-H to the left and right sides of the bus \(v_l, v_r\) and appends them to the buffers \(\widetilde{v}_l, \widetilde{v}_r\) (lines 2–3) until a threshold \(\tau \) is exceeded on both side (line 5). The threshold \(\tau \) was set to 2.75 V which is the minimum acceptable dominant voltage on CAN-H according to ISO specifications. When this threshold is met, the FWD or BCW functions extract the time of the rising edge to the left and right of the bus, i.e., \(t_l, t_r\), and the position \(\pi \) is computed (lines 6–8).

Algorithms 2, 3 present the FWD and BCW functions. The FWD-SQUARE function proceeds from the left to the end of the array (indexes 0 to \(b-1\)) until the slope exceeds the value of \(\alpha \) (lines 3–4). The BCW-SQUARE function first proceeds from the left to right until the voltage reaches the threshold \(\tau \) to avoid a start on a bit plateau (line 3). Then the index is decremented until the slope drops below the value of \(\alpha \) (line 5).

figure a

Appendix C - Complementary Data Regarding Distances

In Fig. 17 we also present the raw distances and their histogram distributions as computed for Scenario A for the 10 ECUs. Note that there are overlaps between the first three and the last two devices, but these are separated by only 10 cm and respectively 20 cm of wire. This is an extremely small distance and even so, the devices can be distinguished over multiple samples.

Figure 18 shows the convergence of the mean values in contrast to the median values with the number of samples. It can be easily seen that the median value converges faster, generally a dozen samples being sufficient to establish the location and these can be extracted from a single frame. The plots are for the BCW-SQUARE method applied on the nodes in Scenario B. The FWD-SQUARE method has lesser accuracy as previously discussed.

Fig. 17.
figure 17

Reported distances for the 10 devices in Scenario A and their histogram distributions

Fig. 18.
figure 18

Convergence of mean (i) and median (ii) values toward the real distance

Appendix D - Additional Numerical Data for Scenario B

Tables 3 and 4 give the numerical values as medians \(\mathbf {M}\) and means \(\mu \) over all the collected samples for each node with the forward and backward square methods. The backward square method is more accurate.

Tables 5 and 6 provide the true distances along with the resulting errors. Again, note that since no cable has exactly the \(5\,\text {ns}/\text {m}\) propagation speed, small variations are expected. The results clearly indicate that the professional CAN bus cable has lower propagation delays and the distances appear smaller than in the previous experiments. The FWD-SQUARE provided less accuracy and we have attempted a software interpolation to increase the sampling rate by 2x–8x but the benefits were little, the BCW-SQUARE remaining still more accurate.

Interestingly, the distances are almost unaffected by temperature variations. The effects of 2 adversaries are similarly low, only when 3 adversaries are connected to the bus the distances are more visibly affected. Such a scenario with 3 adversaries would be less likely on an in-vehicle bus.

Table 3. Scenario B.2 - single insertions FWD-SQUARE \(\alpha =2, w=100\)
Table 4. Scenario B.2 - single insertions BCW-SQUARE \(\alpha =1, w=25\)
Table 5. Scenarios B.1 and B.3 temperature variations and multiple insertions FWD SQUARE \(\alpha =2, w=200\) (8x)
Table 6. Scenario B.1 and B.3 temperature variations and multiple insertions BCW SQUARE \(\alpha =0.25, w=25\)

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Groza, B., Murvay, PS., Popa, L., Jichici, C. (2021). CAN-SQUARE - Decimeter Level Localization of Electronic Control Units on CAN Buses. In: Bertino, E., Shulman, H., Waidner, M. (eds) Computer Security – ESORICS 2021. ESORICS 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12972. Springer, Cham.

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