Red Balloon Security Launches Military-Grade Cyber Defense Tool for Auto Industry

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Red Balloon Security is launching a new automotive cybersecurity product at the ESCAR Conference: Symbiote for Automotive Defense.

Red Balloon Security, a world leader in embedded device security, is announcing the release of a new cybersecurity product to protect automobiles from a wide range of potential cyber attacks. Called “Symbiote for Automotive Defense,” the new embedded device defense system is officially launching at the escar USA Conference 2017 in Detroit, on June 21.

Automotive manufacturers from Tesla to Ford and Hyundai are increasingly referring to cars as “computers on wheels.” As vehicles evolve to run a larger set of computerized functions, including autonomous driving, the need for a robust and reliable cyber defense apparatus that operates inside of these vehicle systems has never been greater.

Symbiote for Automotive Defense is a universally-compatible, OS-agnostic, real time host-based intrusion defense system for automotive electronic control units (ECUs) and gateways. It is based on the highly successful Symbiote Defense technology for embedded devices, which is already being transitioned into the US Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as in critical infrastructure applications, including a pilot study for a US Department of Homeland Security Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory. It also protects consumer devices, including Hewlett-Packard printers and commercial IoT endpoints. Symbiote has been recognized by researchers and academics in the field of cybersecurity as a groundbreaking advance in embedded device security, and was even named as one of Popular Science’s nine most important security innovations of the year in 2016. Symbiote currently protects millions of devices around the world, and has logged more than 10 billion hours of runtime without a single recorded failure. Now, Red Balloon Security is applying this groundbreaking technology to the automotive industry, making Symbiote for Automotive Defense the most advanced and trusted embedded endpoint security technology on the market today.

“Today’s vehicles are increasingly reliant upon embedded software to run a variety of tasks, from critical operations like braking and steering to managing the center console entertainment system,” said Dr. Ang Cui, CEO and Chief Scientist of Red Balloon Security. “While ECUs and gateways increase the functionality and features of modern vehicles, they also greatly expand the attack surface which ultimately makes these cars more vulnerable to criminal hackers. With Symbiote for Automotive Defense, we have developed a robust embedded device security apparatus that can protect any type of vehicle ECU, whether it’s in a passenger car, SUV, pickup truck or commercial vehicle, from a full range of potential attacks.”

Symbiote for Automotive Defense protects ECUs from malware, ransomware, malicious firmware modification and zero-day attacks. It is effective for any automotive ECU or gateway, regardless of manufacturer or vehicle type.

Cyber Threats to Automobiles

The computerization of vehicles through ECUs and other technologies is creating a rich attack surface for criminal hackers.

A variety of attacks are currently possible, from remotely disabling steering and brake controls to tracking a vehicle’s real-time location through its GPS service. Wired Magazine’s Andy Greenberg demonstrated the real-world potential of these attacks in a few simulated tests of remote car system hacks in 2015 and 2016.

“As cars become more advanced in the years ahead, and this technology is more widely deployed across all vehicle models, drivers will face a growing set of risks from remote attacks.” Dr. Cui added. Unless the vehicle is properly secured, he said, “hackers could potentially use a remote attack to commandeer a self-driving vehicle and direct it to a new location, trigger a life-threatening accident on the highway by disabling critical vehicle controls or even hold a car hostage with ransomware.”

The key to preventing these attacks is by protecting a car’s embedded devices from unauthorized code, which is where a product like Symbiote Defense comes in.

What is Symbiote?

Red Balloon Security’s Symbiote Defense is an advanced firmware defense technology for all types of embedded devices.

It is an OS-agnostic product, which means it is effective for any industry or product category that relies on embedded devices. It is compatible with any ECU, gateway, central processing unit (CPU), firmware or hardware platform or operating system.

Originally developed over 10 years ago by Dr. Ang Cui, a former doctorate student at Columbia University and a lead researcher in its Intrusion Detection Systems Lab, Symbiote Defense has clocked more than 10 billion hours of runtime without a single recorded failure. It is currently under contract for use by the US military and Department of Homeland Security, as well as the power industry, telecommunications and consumer devices.

How It Works

Symbiote Defense keeps embedded devices safe by constantly checking the integrity of the code at the firmware level. In essence, it keeps all authorized software running on the system and prevents unauthorized codes or commands from executing.

More specifically:

-Symbiote Defense is interlaced into the binary code and data of the host firmware it protects. It is then injected into the firmware in a randomized fashion.
-Once injected, it operates alongside the host program during runtime and continuously ensures that the code and data of the host device is untampered and never modified without permission.
-Symbiote Defense starts protecting the host the instant the host is turned on, and it will detect any unauthorized attempts to modify the firmware’s code or data within a fraction of a second, regardless of whether the device is in sleep mode or busy servicing requests.
-While many modern computing systems are adopting forms of load-time integrity, Symbiote Defense goes a step beyond and offers real-time, continuous integrity attestation.
-Symbiote Defense does not require modifications to the source code of the device, or additional hardware resources.
-It also does not affect the functionality, performance or speed of the device it is protecting.
-Additionally, legacy/active device populations can be updated using pre-existing vendor OTA firmware update processes.

About Red Balloon Security

Red Balloon Security is a leading security provider and research firm for embedded devices across all industries. Founded in 2011 by Dr. Ang Cui, the company’s core technology, Symbiote Defense, was originally developed through Columbia University’s Intrusion Detection Systems Lab. After a decade of testing, billions of hours of error-free runtime and deployments in the US military, homeland security, critical infrastructure and consumer products, Symbiote Defense is the world’s most advanced and proven firmware defense system for embedded devices. Red Balloon Security’s pioneering industry research is led by a team of world-class academics, researchers and developers who have published seminal research papers in the fields of embedded security and intrusion detection, led US Department of Defense funded research activities, ethically disclosed vulnerabilities within hundreds of millions of ubiquitous embedded devices and worked as embedded security researchers within various intelligence agencies. Website:

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