Apple CarPlay - What's Under the Hood

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Apple CarPlay has become a significant factor in creating a connected driving experience in automotive technology. It was introduced in March 2014 and has since integrated with over 600 car models, serving as a bridge between the iPhone and a vehicle’s infotainment system. Considering that Apple CarPlay has access to a wealth of private information and a significant research gap exists compared to its open-source competitor, Android Auto, we used various reversing techniques to uncover its architecture. We conducted a comprehensive security analysis emphasizing authenticity, availability, and confidentiality. While the overall security architecture limits many attack vectors, we nonetheless found some shortcomings, which we will present in this talk.

Integrating advanced technology into vehicles is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern automotive landscape. Among these technological advancements, Apple CarPlay stands out as a prominent innovation, offering drivers a connected and enriched driving experience. Initially introduced in March 2014, Apple CarPlay has since become a standard feature in over 600 car models. Initially compatible with iPhone 5 and later models running iOS 7.1 or higher, CarPlay seamlessly integrates the user’s iPhone with the car’s infotainment system. Through a simple USB or wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection, CarPlay enables users to access a variety of multimedia and navigation applications directly on the vehicle’s display, including both Apple’s native apps and third-party applications. However, alongside its convenience and functionality, CarPlay also raises important considerations regarding privacy and security. Notably, the ability to launch apps and accept keyboard input poses potential safety risks. Moreover, CarPlay’s access to text messages and calls, even without unlocking the phone, presents privacy concerns. Although CarPlay is confined to the infotainment system and lacks access to critical vehicle components, the possibility of user distraction or misinformation remains a safety consideration. Furthermore, the physical security of CarPlay-equipped vehicles is also a point of concern, particularly in scenarios where cars are parked unattended. The risk of break-ins and tampering increases, potentially compromising the vehicle’s security and the user’s privacy. Additionally, connecting an iPhone to a rental car introduces privacy risks, as malicious actors could exploit the setup for subsequent drivers. Moreover, the infrequent intervals between vehicle updates, typically occurring during maintenance checkups, leave vehicles vulnerable to known vulnerabilities for extended periods. Considering these factors, it becomes evident that Apple CarPlay represents a security-critical system. Its closed-source nature, in line with Apple’s approach, presents challenges for researchers seeking to understand its underlying protocols and architecture. To address this problem, we employed static and dynamic reversing techniques to analyze CarPlay’s security. While the overall architecture mitigates many potential attack vectors, our analysis has identified certain vulnerabilities that warrant further examination. In our presentation, we will discuss our findings, focusing on aspects such as authenticity, availability, and confidentiality, to provide insights into the security landscape of Apple CarPlay.

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