Meitong Pan examines a board used to implement complex digital computations.Meitong Pan, a master’s student who works with professor Mitra Mirhassani in the Analog and Mixed Signal Research Lab, examines a board used to implement complex digital computations.

Research driving cybersecurity evolution

Companies are well aware of the environmental benefits of electrifying vehicle fleets, but how much is known about the security of these systems?

A University of Windsor researcher aims to dig deeper through the investigation of cybersecurity issues that arise when using electric vehicle fleets with battery charging infrastructure.

“The environmental, geopolitical, and financial advantages of electric vehicles are well-studied and addressed in many research publications. However, security of these systems is not given the full attention that it requires,” says Mitra Mirhassani, the project lead and associate professor who specializes in electrical engineering.

Municipalities are planning to add infrastructure to accommodate the surge in consumer and corporate investment in alternative fuels; the City of Windsor is looking to set up 11 electric vehicle charging stations.

But Dr. Mirhassani warns the most common method of recharging electric vehicles raises security issues. The primary components of a charging station include the main board, communication equipment that is connected to a central unit, radio-frequency identification readers, and other electronic components such as circuit breakers and electrical measurement systems.

“This means that essentially a computer is placed on the street, with potential access to the smart grid that it is connected to,” she says. “This creates the potential for weak security points that can provide a hacker with possible access to the primary network.”

She has received up to $640,000 to work on cybersecurity and automotive technologies as part of a FedDev Ontario $5 million investment in community economic development and diversification that supports Windsor-Essex in transitioning from traditional automotive manufacturing to transformative automotive technologies.

Read the full article in the 2019 issue of Windsor Engineering (WE).