Safe charging of electric vehicles (2/2): Software security
The future of charging infrastructure belongs to intelligent charging stations. The more software solutions become established in e-mobility, the more relevant it becomes to deal with their safety requirements. If the operator decides in favor of a charging solution with an integrated backend, there is hardly a way around dealing with the security of the software.
The choice of charging software is a crucial point for the security of the charging infrastructure. Intelligent software enables compliance with all data protection regulations and the legally compliant handling of all processes.
It also connects all stakeholders involved, such as energy suppliers, charging station operators and users. This is important because coordination between all parties involved is a prerequisite for a comprehensive security strategy in any charging infrastructure project.
For this reason, early advice from experts is a good idea, especially for extensive projects. In this way, your own requirements can be defined and the service providers involved can be coordinated with one another, e.g. by means of a full-service charging solution.
As with all IT systems that manage sensitive user data, the protection of personal data is also the focus of the security requirements for charging software. A security concept is essential to protect it and specifically to ward off cyber attacks.
As electricity plants, cars and charging stations are also affected by this risk. The security status must therefore be checked regularly and analyzed carefully. Continuous software updates are one way to create this security.
Security through software updates
Software updates are an essential part of any charging station security concept as they close potentially critical security gaps and also include new features and bug fixes.
A distinction is made between firmware and software updates. The former refers to the charging stations, i.e. the hardware. Firmware updates are developed by the charging station hardware manufacturers and update the wallbox with extended operating instructions without requiring a hardware upgrade. Software updates refer to the installed software running in the background of the dashboard and app.
When it comes to updates for the charging solution, a distinction is made between cloud and on-premise software. If it is cloud software, the process of regular updates is considerably simplified, since so-called over-the-air (OTA) updates are possible. In contrast to on-premise software, the cloud software is not installed on the local server of the operator (CPO), but is hosted on the server of the software provider. Users receive access via an encrypted connection.
In the case of the charging infrastructure, with cloud software, the CPO has access to the software via a web-based dashboard or an app. This is the so-called front end. It allows the operator to interact with the backend, the charging station software.
This means that all updates are done seamlessly remotely and no manual updates are necessary for the operator of the charging solution – the software is always up to date. The CPO and drivers can always benefit from the latest functions.
Troubleshooting in the backend
The backend monitors the status of the charging infrastructure and helps identify malfunctions by displaying appropriate messages. In this way, faults can be detected and often remedied remotely without having to check the wallbox on site.
Online operator portals, such as the reev Dashboard, even allow the operator to troubleshoot minor faults himself.
In addition to the administration of different user groups, charging software also enables financial transactions and automated billing in most cases. For this purpose, a payment service provider is usually integrated, which must be checked and fully certified in order to meet the necessary security standards.
The billing and payment options differ from provider to provider. In order to standardize this system, the German federal government is currently requiring payment by credit card at all public charging stations.
Basically, charging solutions with an integrated software backend create the connection between different players and enable the management of sensitive user data. It is therefore essential when operating such charging infrastructure that the security of the software has the highest priority.
So far, there are no binding regulations that the operator must meet with regard to cyber security and software updates. The first corresponding regulations for the automotive industry are to be introduced across the EU in 2022. In general, continuous software updates are an important prerequisite for the security of the charging infrastructure.
Operators of charging stations should seek advice on this at an early stage and, depending on the application, consider a full-service charging solution in which the coordination of those involved in security is taken over by a service provider.
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