OnBoard Security, Inc.

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January 29, 2018 Issue



Q&A with Peter Samson, President of OnBoard Security, Inc. providing Internet of Things Security for Connected Vehicles during V2V Communications, Trusted Computing and Protection from the Threat of Quantum Computers



Peter Samson



OnBoard Security, Inc.


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – January 28, 2018


CEOCFO: Mr. Samson, what is the concept behind OnBoard Security Inc?

Mr. Samson: We are a software and services company that protects the Internet of Things and the people who depend on it. We are globally recognized for our expertise in three areas: connected vehicle security, trusted computing, and protecting the internet from the threat of quantum computers.


CEOCFO: Would you go through the three different facets and tell us what that means day to day, who you are working with and what you are providing? 

Mr. Samson: We are the market leader in security for connected vehicles. This encompasses the next generation of cars that talk to each other and share information about their position, direction, speed, intentions, and other real-time status to prevent accidents. How will vehicles do this? They will warn drivers of a potential collision a second and a half earlier than can be identified by current onboard sensors. This initiative has been sponsored by the US government, which has calculated that when vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications are broadly adopted, approximately eighty percent of all accidents will be eliminated. When you consider that car crashes account for more than forty thousand deaths a year, this represents a massive improvement in auto safety. One of the key requirements of the vehicles talking to each other, of course, is that the information they share has to be secure and comes from a vehicle that has been authorized to send that information. Also, the transmission has to be completely private, so that there is no way that anyone—from the government on down—can identify either the vehicle or the drivers. We have been working with the government and standards organizations to define and then help build the security infrastructure that enables V2V communications to be trusted.


CEOCFO: How are the vehicles connected? If someone purchases a 2019 vehicle, will they all be connected? Can the ability to connect be added later?

Mr. Samson: That is a very good question! The biggest challenge is the network effect: the need to have a sufficient number of cars on the street communicating with each other to have a measurable impact on safety. Helping this is a pending government mandate that would require all cars built after a certain year, probably in the 2020-2021 timeframe, to support this technology. The first car shipped with this capability was the 2017 Cadillac CTS. At the time of this interview, it can only talk to other Cadillac CTS’s, which is not very useful.  It is, however, important to recognize the fact that GM has taken an early leadership role; it has imprinted its commitment to live-saving technology on the market. Volkswagen has also announced that all of their cars in 2019 and beyond will have this technology. Both of these automakers use our software, and we have been very involved in helping develop the security infrastructure around it. For your second question, “can people buy it afterwards?” the answer is “yes!” One very important requirement is the availability of aftermarket equipment. People will be able to plug these devices into their cars and join the communication environment, regardless of the age of the vehicle.  Right now there are U.S. government-funded pilots in New York City, Tampa and Wyoming that are testing different uses of the technology, as well as collectively testing equipment interoperability. OnBoard Security is involved in all three pilots.


CEOCFO: What is the challenge in secure communication in this level? What are you able to do that others perhaps cannot or not do as well?

Mr. Samson: There are a number of challenges to V2V communications, the most pressing of which is the need for high-performance hardware and software platforms. Consider this: every car transmits ten basic safety messages per second. In addition, every car will also receive more than one thousand messages from other vehicles, which it will have to decode and trust before alerting the driver to take evasive action. Another piece of the security is to know that the messages received are from authorized senders. To achieve this, every safety message is signed before it is transmitted to other cars, just like secure internet transactions. This is a very similar security environment (involving two-factor authentication), except that it happens much, much faster and on a far greater scale. OnBoard Security’s major point of differentiation is that our Chief Technology Officer defined the worldwide standard for V2V communication security, and the product that we have is considered the best implementation of that standard. It is also the most widely used. Theoretically, there is no reason why other companies cannot write to that standard, but our advantage is that we have been in this from the start. We have been involved in just about every pilot implementation and are partnering with most of the key industry players, whether they are the OEMs; the Tier 1 providers that put the radios and navigation systems in cars; and the software and technology builders that they rely on. Therefore, our three major advantages are our expertise, our time-to-market, and our network of loyal partners. 


CEOCFO: Why are you sure that this is going to be a reality? What gives you the confidence? 

Mr. Samson: There are a number of reasons we are very bullish on the V2V system. Countries outside of the United States are way ahead of us in their commitment to the implementation of connected car technology. Korea, China, Japan and Singapore, to name a few, have already committed to the technology. The Car to Car Consortium in Europe, which is run by companies including BMW and Mercedes, is driving the local implementation of this technology. Similarly, U.S. car makers established an organization called CAMP, which is short for the Collision Avoidance Metrics Partnership. However, I think the biggest reason why this will happen is that V2V is a prerequisite to autonomous vehicles. For driverless cars to be able to navigate our world safely, comfortable and securely, they need to be able to share information with other vehicles, like disclosing their intentions, communicating their positions, identifying the speed at which they are traveling, and the condition of their sensors.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the other aspects of OnBoard Security - about the business, the Internet of Things?

Mr. Samson: I tell people that we have a “Cheers” strategy: we serve three niche markets where everybody knows our name. We are already top of mind within the V2V marketplace. We are also the best-known software provider in the trusted computing market. Trusted computing is a very fundamental method of securing computers and the internet of things (IoT) devices through the use of special hardware called Trusted Platform Modules or TPMs, which are quickly becoming mandatory requirements in many governmental and commercial environments. TPM support is also a Microsoft requirement for Windows 10 certification, and TPMs are being adopted widely within the IoT world. The TPM chip specification was developed by a consortium called the TCG (Trusted Computing Group), which is made up of over one hundred companies including big semiconductor manufacturers as well as server, networking equipment, IoT and PC makers. OnBoard Security is a key contributor to TCG—in fact, we were given Outstanding Achievement Awards in both 2016 and 2017 for our work in defining and then writing the software that will make it easier for application providers to use TPMs. We have released the first commercial implementation of the TSS (the TPM Software Stack), which is already in use by some of the largest manufacturers in the world. For example, we were selected recently by Infineon, one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers, as their security partner in the TPM space and we are working in parallel with them to drive this technology. There is also a movement to put TPM’s in vehicles to help secure the communications within a car. Therefore, when the brakes talk to the navigation system or to the dashboard, we know that that message has not been tampered with.


CEOCFO: Is there much outreach to do? Or, are potential partners coming to OnBoard?

Mr. Samson: Because we have been at this for so long, potential partners are coming to us! We also have a robust partner network because of our activities in the standards organizations. For example, in CAMP, in Car to Car and in the TCG, everyone knows us. Actually, people have been pushing us for a year or so to have our TSS software ready as quickly as possible to ship a well-tested, high quality product. New opportunities are coming to us from the automotive and TPM space almost weekly. This is a nice position to be in.


CEOCFO: Are you funded for the steps you will be taking next? Are you seeking investments or partnerships? What is your status?

Mr. Samson: We have recently completed a small private round that is more than enough to help us continue to develop the products before we start seeing accelerated revenue. We expect to be totally self-sufficient by the end of 2018.


CEOCFO: What is the third product you are working on?

Mr. Samson: The third product is something that we have had for twenty years, which was clearly ahead of its time. It is a quantum resistant asymmetric algorithm. Long story short: many technology companies and governments—both friendly and unfriendly—are developing so-called quantum computers. This is a new family of technology that works on completely different principles than current systems, exploiting the strange characteristics of sub-atomic particles that can exist in multiple states at any one time. When quantum computers reach a well identified, critical size, which is expected to occur within the next five to ten years, they will easily be able to break all of the security that is commonly used on the Internet. Therefore, our security algorithms, which are called NTRU, were developed to replace both RSA and ECC, both of which will be easily compromised by quantum computers. When this happens, it will be known as the “crypto apocalypse” and long feared by businesses and governments around the world. Because it can take over five years to switch over to quantum-resistant security, many of the more forward-looking large organizations are already planning their response to these existential threats to their businesses and, of course, the potential end to all of our privacy and security. Once again, in the world of encryption things move slowly but again, our advantage is that we were first with this capability. Anyone who is graduating from computer science school, or who has studied cryptography, will know the name NTRU. Once again, the “Cheers” strategy.


CEOCFO: OnBoard Security seems to be ahead of the game everywhere!

Mr. Samson: In the three market niches which we have selected, yes, we certainly are. In addition, one of our key strategies is to focus all of these capabilities into the automotive and transportation space and increase our revenue footprint per vehicle. Post quantum security is not only important in the automotive space, but is relevant to any environment where the devices have a life expectancy of more than ten years. This includes medical devices, energy grid IoT, and cars. When cars are connected they will need to be treated just like other complex electronic devices and require regular security and other software updates. Many people do not realize that a car is the most complex machine on the planet in terms of lines of computer code. It has ten times as much software as a Boeing 787 and twice as much as the Large Hadron Collider. A lot can go wrong when a car has one hundred and thirty million lines of computer code. The software has to be updated and the most efficient way of delivering the updates is over the air—but it is essential that the software being uploaded has not been tampered with. What currently protects the code? The very algorithms that quantum computers will soon render impotent.

Another area we are watching is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones because they have similar requirements as autonomous cars. Once Amazon and others start delivering stuff by air, the drones have to know where the other drones are, and they have to be secure and trustworthy. There are many adjacent technologies that we can use some of our products in, but right now our primary focus vertically is automotive.


CEOCFO: What surprised you as the company has grown and evolved? 

Mr. Samson: The only thing that surprised me is how long everything takes, especially in the automotive market. We have been talking about the life-saving benefits of V2V technology for over ten years, when the FCC reserved wireless spectrum for safety messages and the auto makers started testing various use-cases. But at last the first V2V-enabled cars are just starting to roll off the production line. Directionally, everything is going according to plan, but in terms of velocity it remains frustrating, and I often have to talk myself into being patient. The leading indicators are all positive and I am very excited about the impact OnBoard Security will soon have throughout our connected world.


“We are globally recognized for our expertise in three areas: connected vehicle security, trusted computing, and protecting the internet from the threat of quantum computers.”
- Peter Samson


OnBoard Security, Inc.



Peter Samson







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