Security Researchers Try to Protect Vehicles from Computer Viruses
August 20, 2012 9:29 AM
McAfee executive says the future is scary
Vehicles are becoming more and more reliant on computers for efficiency, safety systems, and
. Most vehicles on the market today use throttle-by-wire systems, where the onboard computer controls the throttle of the vehicle. Toyota has had problems in the past with
so-called unintended acceleration
, with many pointing fingers at the electronic systems in the car.
High-profile cases such as this have illustrated the point that computer systems inside modern automobiles can
significantly affect the safety of passengers and others
on the roads around the country. A team of researchers working for
Intel security firm McAfee
is attempting to search vehicles for electronic bugs that can make them susceptible to computer viruses.
According to some security experts, automakers have failed to protect electronic and computer systems in vehicles from attacks by hackers looking to steal vehicles, eavesdrop on communications inside the vehicle, and potentially harm passengers by causing the vehicles to crash.
"You can definitely kill people," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit. The US cyber Consequences Unit is a nonprofit organization with the goal of helping companies to analyze their potential for targeted computer attacks on products and networks. So far, there have been no violent attacks on automobile computer systems reported.
Despite there being no confirmed by violent attacks against automotive computer systems reported, Ford has security engineers at work to secure its Sync communications entertainment system from attack. Ford spokesman Alan Hall said, "Ford is taking the threat very seriously and investing in security solutions that are built into the product from the outset."
"Any cyber security breach carries certain risk," said Jack Pokrzywa, SAE's manager of ground vehicle standards. "SAE Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee is working hard to develop specifications which will reduce that risk in the vehicle area."
Toyota maintains that it isn't aware of any hacking instances conducted against its automobiles. The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the risk of vehicular hacking or whether it is aware of any vehicular hacking incidents reports
McAfee executive Bruce Snell, who oversees the company's car security research, stated, "If your laptop crashes you'll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening. I don't think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary."
"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
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