April 5-7, 2022|Santa Clara Convention Center| Santa Clara, CA

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It's just a Vulnerable Computer: Protecting Autonomous Systems


Julia Downes  (Principle Embedded Operating Systems Engineer, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL))

Location: Ballroom B

Date: Thursday, April 7

Time: 11:55 am - 12:25 pm

Track: Embedded IoT World

Format: Embedded IoT World Session

Theme : Internet of Things (IoT), Security

Education Level: All

Pass Type: 2-Day Pass, All Access Pass, Expo Pass

Vault Recording: TBD

Audience Level: All

  • Autonomous Systems are becoming a key area within many domains. Whilst a large portion of the research surrounding them focusses on how they could and should be used (including factors such as trust, ethics, legislation, reliability, and safety), there has been little focus on their security. Since Autonomous Systems typically interact with their environment (both sensing and actuating), and are likely to utilize one or more communications networks, the problem can be regarded as a cyber-physical system – which apart from facing AI/ML-specific challenges (transparency, determinism and reliability), is network connected – facilitating remote interference.

    Historically, the security of new Internet-connected products is relatively non-existent – with suppliers prioritizing time-to-market and low-cost over security. This leads to issues such as outdated software, incorrect access control and insufficient privacy protection - think baby monitors! Newly developed Autonomous Systems are at risk of repeating these mistakes, since regardless of the time and effort that has gone into ensuring their functionality will be safe and ethically sound, if the system itself is not secure, then it cannot be regarded as safe, nor can its reliability be determined.

    This session looks at Autonomous Systems, throughout their life-cycle, from design, to implementation of the machine learning model and the supporting software, the training and testing of the system, then deployment and integration with the wider system, and finally, operation & maintenance and retirement. Security considerations are covered at each stage, and whilst there are several open problems, we aim to increase the security of Autonomous Systems.


- Discover the interactions between Autonomous Systems and their environment
- Understand the security challenges for Autonomous Systems during each stage of their life-cycle
- Learn how malicious users may abuse weaknesses in Autonomous Systems
- Know what questions to ask suppliers to determine potential security issues