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Will Cybersecurity Render the C8 Untunable?

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  • Will Cybersecurity Render the C8 Untunable?



    Sean Szymkowski May 29, 2019

    Sean SzymkowskiThe aftermarket may have a tough go with the mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette.

    The mid-engine sports car has a "unique encrypted ECU system," according to a Tuesday report from Muscle Cars & Trucks. Per the report, any changes in the pursuit of more horsepower to the ECU will be a difficult task, if not impossible.


    2020 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
    2020 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

    It's worth noting the 2020 Corvette will likely be one of the many new cars from General Motors to use the automaker's new electrical architecture, which has been floated as one of many reasons why the car was subject to delays. The "digital architecture" not only boosts output for future in-car technologies but also puts a major focus on cybersecurity. The latter is reportedly one of the major roadblocks to ECU tuning.

    In the event re-programming fails, the mid-engine Corvette will enter a "recovery mode." Like a rolling computer, the car will need to be rebooted. Those who don't have the resources to restore the car's ECU will be left with a "bricked" sports car, sources said.


    2020 Chevrolet Corvette
    2020 Chevrolet Corvette

    ECU tuning is often an essential means of squeezing more power from a car. It can be as simple as unlocking more power from the parts that are already there or retuning to match new parts, including new or larger turbochargers or superchargers. Yet, where there's a will, there's a way. That way may involve a few bricked mid-engine Corvettes along the way. The Corvette has always been a prized car for aftermarket companies to tinker with. This time, they may not be able to crack into the ECU and if they can they will have to be careful not to brick the C8.

    The 2020 Corvette will—finally—debut on July 18 in California. The common thought has been that the car will come with an upgraded version of the Corvette's current pushrod 6.2-liter V-8 making about 500 horsepower. However, the Muscle Cars & Trucks story expects the engine at launch to be a dual-overhead cam V-8 called LT-2. It was previously speculated that a DOHC V-8 with a flat-plane crank would come later and make about 600 hp. Rumors also suggest a twin-turbocharged V-8 and even a hybrid powertrain are on the table. The latter could sport all-wheel drive with its electrified running gear.T


  • #2
    Above article thanks to MotorAuthority at this link: https://www.motorauthority.com/news/...edly-untunable.

    Could be that the C8 might not be cracked, but just like the ZR1 was designed to be un-tunable, yet it was cracked, betting at some point in time it would be able to be hacked.

    Personally, I do not want a single mod that changes the ECU, but for those that do, I think you would be fine at some point.
    Last edited by John; 05-29-2019, 02:25 PM.
    GBA Black; HTO Twilight/Tension interior; Z51 & Mag Ride; E60 lift; 5VM visible carbon fiber package; 5ZZ high wing; FA5 interior vis CF; ZZ3 engine appearance; 3LT; Q8T Spectra Gray Tridents; J6N Edge Red Calipers; SNG Edge Red Hashmarks; VQK Splash Guards; RCC Edge Red engine cover; VJR illuminated sill plates. Lifetime, annual contributors, and 23 year members of National Corvette Museum. Home is the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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    • #3
      Given time and motivation, almost anything can be cracked. But depending on how serious GM is with their encryption, it could take a lot of time.

      I think the stock C8 engine will make "adequate" power for me, but there may be other advantages to being able to reprogram the ECU. On the C7, for example, aftermarket tuners could significantly reduce the throttle lag caused by GM's torque management. Not worth possibly voiding the drivetrain warranty for me, but maybe for some others.
      Last edited by meyerweb; 05-29-2019, 02:36 PM.
      Delivered 5/29!: Scarlet Fever 2021 2LT HTC, Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat, two-tone Natural w/ suede inserts, Mag Ride, Performance Exhaust

      Current C7: SunKissed, 2015 2LT, 7MT, Black overDaytona Sunrise Orange Metallic, Stingray convertible

      Proud member of the Old Dominion Corvette Club: https://www.olddominioncorvetteclub.org/

      Never grow up - It's a trap.

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      • #4
        On the other hand, the "Right To Repair" movement and developing legislation in the US and Canada will make it more difficult for manufacturers to encrypt their system software without providing tools to work with it so that independent repair shops and individual users are not locked into dealer-only servicing. (whew, what a run-on sentence!)

        The poster child for this movement is the battle being fought over repairs to John Deere commercial tractors.

        How does a manufacturer balance encryption so your vehicle can't be hacked remotely versus the right-to-repair concerns? Dunno. I think it's going to take some time for all this to shake out. Edit: this may become even more difficult when a vehicle is specifically designed to accept over-the-air updates, as apparently the C8 will.
        Last edited by Klinn; 05-29-2019, 05:05 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Klinn View Post
          On the other hand, the "Right To Repair" movement and developing legislation in the US and Canada will make it more difficult for manufacturers to encrypt their system software without providing tools to work with it so that independent repair shops and individual users are not locked into dealer-only servicing. (whew, what a run-on sentence!)

          The poster child for this movement is the battle being fought over repairs to John Deere commercial tractors.

          How does a manufacturer balance encryption so your vehicle can't be hacked remotely versus the right-to-repair concerns? Dunno. I think it's going to take some time for all this to shake out. Edit: this may become even more difficult when a vehicle is specifically designed to accept over-the-air updates, as apparently the C8 will.
          The EPA is currently pushing legislation that will put a stop to all of this. Modifying an ECU to make more power will increase emissions. Its already against the law to do this but now the EPA is taking action. A few years ago they targeted a few of the diesel tuners and even made them appear in court. Suddenly they stopped providing tunes to the diesel community. Now the EPA is taking it further and pushing the manufactures to lock down the software and architecture. Its been reported that they will start requiring all manufacturers and dealers to report if an ECU has been tampered with outside of normal repair or warranty work so they can fine and/or prosecute anyone modifying the emissions on a street vehicle. The green new deal is marching forward and its coming faster than we think.

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          • #6
            “Good Guys” can tune C8’s motor. So said GM President Mark Reuss yesterday.

            Originally posted by MotorAuthority
            Last week we reported that the mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette would house a hardened ECU that might make it a tough cookie to crack for aftermarket companies.

            GM President Mark Reuss himself has weighed in on the report. The exec told Muscle Cars & Trucks on Monday that the goal isn't to "cut anybody out" from the aftermarket crowd but "we have to pick and choose who are the good guys."
            For more and with thanks to MotorAuthority: https://www.motorauthority.com/news/...t-corvette-ecu

            Will that statement mean that GM, either above board or sub-Rosa, works with Katech, Pratt and Miller, Lingenfelter and Callaway and similar topnotc companies and releases to them the “Enigma machine” so that those # 1 aftermarket engineering firms could have a secret decoder ring to get into and tune the ECU?

            Probably yes, but IMO probably with the usual, “you choose to play, you choose to lose your warranty” consequences.
            Last edited by John; 06-05-2019, 11:53 AM.
            GBA Black; HTO Twilight/Tension interior; Z51 & Mag Ride; E60 lift; 5VM visible carbon fiber package; 5ZZ high wing; FA5 interior vis CF; ZZ3 engine appearance; 3LT; Q8T Spectra Gray Tridents; J6N Edge Red Calipers; SNG Edge Red Hashmarks; VQK Splash Guards; RCC Edge Red engine cover; VJR illuminated sill plates. Lifetime, annual contributors, and 23 year members of National Corvette Museum. Home is the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by John View Post
              “Good Guys” can tune C8’s motor. So said GM President Mark Reuss yesterday.
              I think, that's a very APPROPRIATE answer and direction from GM. I've seen (right in front of my eyes), engines blown up on dyno from a bad tune. This [tuning] decision being governed by GM and a selected tuners, will keep a great balance for those who want to tune, but with a safe and educated tuner.

              Otherwise if C8 start blowing up (like it happened with Mustang EB, with bad tunes), people will blame the C8 than a bad tune.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Z_Rocks View Post

                I think, that's a very APPROPRIATE answer and direction from GM. I've seen (right in front of my eyes), engines blown up on dyno from a bad tune. This [tuning] decision being governed by GM and a selected tuners, will keep a great balance for those who want to tune, but with a safe and educated tuner.

                Otherwise if C8 start blowing up (like it happened with Mustang EB, with bad tunes), people will blame the C8 than a bad tune.
                Yep, it happens. It’s called oiling the Dyno room walls
                3LT Long Beach Red , Z51, FE4 , ZZ3, Black interior ,38S red stitching, Q8T, FA5, ER1, CFX, and R8C

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Racer86 View Post

                  Yep, it happens. It’s called oiling the Dyno room walls
                  Actually, I saw a lot of white smoke coming out. Next time I go to a tuner, I'll check the wall first before leaving my car there...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MotorAuthority
                    Last week we reported that the mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette would house a hardened ECU that might make it a tough cookie to crack for aftermarket companies.

                    GM President Mark Reuss himself has weighed in on the report. The exec told Muscle Cars & Trucks on Monday that the goal isn't to "cut anybody out" from the aftermarket crowd but "we have to pick and choose who are the good guys."
                    Translated as those who are willing to pay licensing fees to General Motors, I think......
                    Delivered 5/29!: Scarlet Fever 2021 2LT HTC, Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat, two-tone Natural w/ suede inserts, Mag Ride, Performance Exhaust

                    Current C7: SunKissed, 2015 2LT, 7MT, Black overDaytona Sunrise Orange Metallic, Stingray convertible

                    Proud member of the Old Dominion Corvette Club: https://www.olddominioncorvetteclub.org/

                    Never grow up - It's a trap.

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                    • #11
                      If you "root" your cellphone and fail you have a $2000 brick. If you "root" your C8 and fail you may have a $80000 brick. I get wanting to "mod" and place your stamp on stuff but these are not your sports cars of the 60s-90s or even later. I personally understand GM wanting to protect its assets here. In the end, if you want a tunable sports car, u may have to go somewhere else.

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                      • #12
                        Who, which and why = Bad Guys?

                        1. The Tuner that poses a threat to an interest of GM: ????????????????
                        2. The Tuner that poses a threat to an interest of the C8 Buyer: ????????????????? Customer's choice

                        Tuners must experiment to push the envelope. That process will cause failures. Is that Bad Guy.


                        Once the product is in the hands of a large number of Customers the tunerOption will move in some direction by customer choice . GM influence or control over the direction? What will that add to the cost and who profits .

                        Can a customer swap the engine? Never? After warranty expirations? Gearing set up?

                        Owners have tinkered since the beginning of cars so it can not change and GM will ultimately comply with the owner direction and choice.
                        Last edited by SheepDog; 06-07-2019, 10:37 AM.

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                        • #13
                          If you want to void the warranty and take complete responsibility then that is the ultimate option of the owner, of course.

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                          • #14
                            I do not blame GM from trying to prevent those who have played games, done actual ECU and engine mods, then pulled out those changes before heading to a dealership, then their further demanding that GM cover problems under warranty.

                            GM is absolutely within its rights IMO is preventing excessive warranty claims from the 1% who play those games (a brand new C7 Z06 motor, removed and installed by a GM dealership is $30K)). I am also comfortable with GM being able to identify through their now two year old process, of having major warranty claims both reviewed and then externally approved by a Regional Warranty Approval Supervisor, i.e., that external warranty claims approval was a change from earlier being solely-approved a dealership person who might be a golfing budding, or that customer bought five trucks per year for their business, with the dealership earlier doing a “wink-wink” even though the dealership knew those changes were highly questionable mods. I had one person tell me that “as I buy a lot of new vehicles from them, they will will fix every every repair I have.” That was however several years ago; I doubt that is happening now.

                            I have no issue with GM doing their due diligence to determine whether games were played, whether in some cases outright fraud was committed, or whether the part or system failure needed to be properly and completely covered by GM under warranty.

                            Just as I am fine with others taking their Corvette to a tuner who take chances, produces way more power than most, and in the process incurring moderate to significant risk.

                            We all get to choose as customers. Just as IMO GM gets to choose who they share access codes with or not, and earlier chose to implement an external-to-a-dealership review of significant warranty claims before approving them.

                            As noted above, GM is far from alone is now taking a closer look at warranty claims.
                            GBA Black; HTO Twilight/Tension interior; Z51 & Mag Ride; E60 lift; 5VM visible carbon fiber package; 5ZZ high wing; FA5 interior vis CF; ZZ3 engine appearance; 3LT; Q8T Spectra Gray Tridents; J6N Edge Red Calipers; SNG Edge Red Hashmarks; VQK Splash Guards; RCC Edge Red engine cover; VJR illuminated sill plates. Lifetime, annual contributors, and 23 year members of National Corvette Museum. Home is the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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                            • #15
                              Must likely be a way to program C8 to report "molestation", and record it in a "black box" file or feature within the car. Part remedy. Bad warranty claims are ultimately reflected in cost/price of something paid by other consumers. Owners are in the middle and the knife cuts both ways. Needs to think deeply their position and choices, is what is being said and offered.. That GM is measuring its measures and in good faith.


                              If GM and the Good Guys offer the superior tunes and superior rates, then the imaginary objections go away. GMs plan might even work well


                              But ? No more home garage shade tree back alley tinkering.

                              The Mclarens are made so the owner has to burgularize the engine compartment. The Porsches are hard to get into. The electric cars will be inherently hard to mess with.
                              Last edited by SheepDog; 06-07-2019, 01:17 PM.

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