About ITS Cybersecurity

The past few decades have witnessed a tremendous growth in data availability, system and device connectivity, and interoperability through the pervasive spread of computers, the internet, portable smart phones, tablets, and wireless technology. These systems are now integral to our daily lives, and so is the potential for attacks on these systems. Cybersecurity is now necessary to protect these vital systems and the information they contain.

Transportation is following the path of connectivity. In addition to integrating wireless connectivity into existing, broader Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), exciting next-generation ITS includes advancements such as connected and automated vehicle environments based on real-time data exchange between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V), vehicles and infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure, or V2I), vehicles and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, aftermarket devices, and other sensors (vehicle-to-everything, or V2X). These advancements make travel safer, cleaner, and more efficient, and are being deployed on our nation’s roads and highways, in our personal vehicles, in public fleets (buses, emergency response vehicles, and others), in private fleet vehicles, with pedestrians, and on vehicles such as bicycles, wheelchairs, and motorcycles. The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) understands that cybersecurity has an even more important role—this broad and diverse range of systems, devices, components, and communications must be protected from malicious attacks, unauthorized access, damage, or anything else that might interfere with their intended safety functions.

What Is the Goal of the ITS Cybersecurity Research Program?

Transportation system manufacturers, integrators, and operators—both public and private—must systematically assess risks at all levels so that the vulnerabilities, malfunctions, or opportunities for malfeasance associated with ITS deployments are mitigated. This assumes that resiliency plans exist and are used, and that the workforce is trained and has the necessary tools and resources to monitor, identify, protect, respond, and recover from cyberattacks and other challenges.

The goal of the ITS Cybersecurity Research Program is to make resources, information, and tools available to stakeholder communities to support secure and cyber-resilient ITS implementations.

The ITS Cybersecurity Research Program was developed in response to the urgent need to protect ITS from cyberattacks. Both public and private sectors must share the responsibility of securing transportation’s critical assets and infrastructure against cyber threats. Executive Order 13800, issued May 11, 2017, encourages federal agencies to work with industries and all entities to adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.

The ITS Cybersecurity Research Program was established to work with the transportation community to (among other initiatives):

  • Identify needs and gaps that prevent secure and resilient ITS.
  • Advance the technical research that adopts or adapts implementation practices from other industries or develops new transportation approaches.
  • Tailor the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework to ITS, including connected and automated transportation technologies. The framework provides voluntary guidance based on existing standards, guidelines, and practices for organizations to better manage and reduce cybersecurity risk. The framework offers a common language for understanding, managing, and expressing cybersecurity risk to internal and external stakeholders.
  • It focuses on integrating transportation systems into broader “smart cities and communities” as part of the growth in systems known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Create the tools and resources to effectively manage cyber risk in public transportation systems.
  • Provide technology and knowledge transfer to the transportation workforce so they understand cyber issues and mitigations.

What Is the ITS JPO Role in ITS Cybersecurity Research?

The ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) works across the U.S. DOT modes to develop and coordinate research focused on cyber vulnerabilities from an integrated, multimodal transportation perspective. This role includes defining shared priorities, analyzing and developing policy options, and identifying and addressing cross-modal cyber issues, in addition to sharing implementation practices and information. The ITS JPO also offers leadership, information, and resources to state, local, and tribal transportation agencies that cross modal boundaries to ensure risk management across the transportation system.

View the Cybersecurity for ITS Fact Sheet for more information about cybersecurity research at the ITS JPO.

How Does the ITS JPO’s Strategic Plan 2020 - 2025 Advance ITS Cybersecurity?

The ITS JPO Strategic Plan 2020 - 2025 recognizes the critical importance of ITS cybersecurity, and:

  • Adapts the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to create ITS-specific companion resources to guide decision making for state, local, and tribal transportation agencies to identify and mobilize organizational resources to focus on cybersecurity.
  • Pursues research into advanced security and cybersecurity technologies and approaches to ensure that critical ITS infrastructure meets the increasing challenge of cyber resilience.
  • Creates training and resources to increase workforce and industry proficiency in installing, operating, and maintaining secure ITS and information systems.
  • Maintains this ITS Cybersecurity Research Program, where technical resources and information about research, educational materials, and training opportunities inform and aid public and private sector users responsible for deploying safe and secure ITS infrastructure and devices. Specifically, the website’s content supports the activities of these key audiences to improve the cyber resilience of ITS systems:
    • ITS Deployment Agencies: The U.S. DOT has conducted projects that can help state, local, and tribal transportation agencies deploy ITS systems to improve their overall security posture. These include the NIST Cybersecurity Framework tailored for connected vehicle and ITS environments, best practices and guidance for conducting penetration testing, and professional capacity building (PCB) training. Find these in the Tools and Resources and Workforce Development pages.
    • ITS Vendors: Recent ITS standards development efforts provide guidance for ITS device vendors building secure products. The U.S. DOT also funded the development of the Security Credential Management System (SCMS) Proof of Concept (POC). The interface documentation and lessons learned are relevant to ITS vendors that will be utilizing SCMS certificates. These resources can be found in the Standards and SCMS sections of the website.
    • ITS Researchers: The U.S. DOT continues to conduct research into transportation cybersecurity topics, including analyzing 5G cybersecurity for transportation use cases. The most recent U.S. DOT cybersecurity projects and progress are in the ITS Cybersecurity Research section.

Click below to learn more about how previous projects have resulted in:

Program Contact

For more information about the ITS Cybersecurity Research Program, contact:

Steve Sill, P.E., PMP
Program Manager, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Architecture, Standards, and Cybersecurity (ASC)