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When Will Your Car Get a Virus?

Researchers, carmakers and security experts agree that it's only a matter of time before hackers find a way to hack into cars.

by / August 21, 2012
Photo from Shutterstock

As embedded computer systems in everyday objects become more sophisticated, those objects become vulnerable to hackers. Researchers and computer security software companies are now studying the possibility of automobiles being hacked.

McAfee, a security software company, is conducting research in Beaverton, Ore., to identify the possibility of hacker threats on automobiles. McAfee released a report last year, titled Caution: Malware Ahead, warning that hacker threats to automobiles were not far off.

The report cites several possible vulnerabilities, including the possibility of a hacker guessing a vehicle's Bluetooth PIN to gain access to the embedded system. Cars with a GPS that's connected to cloud-based applications could be used by hackers to track drivers without their knowledge, the report also noted.

Using a laptop, researchers from the University of California hacked into a vehicle in 2010, gaining access to nearly every function of the car. "We are able to forcibly and completely disengage the brakes while driving, making it difficult for the driver to stop,” the researchers stated, reported “Conversely, we are able to forcibly activate the brakes, forcing the driver forward and causing the car to stop suddenly."

There haven't been any recorded cases of automobiles being hacked for criminal purposes, but carmakers, researchers and security experts generally agree that it's only a matter of time before a hacker uses a computer to steal a car. According to a recent Car and Driver article, carmakers are constantly changing their code and improving security in vehicles, but many expect the automobile security world could become an arms race similar to the security battlefront found on personal computers everywhere.

Read the full report here.

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