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McAfee: Hackers Going After Cars Next

Wednesday McAfee released a report called "Caution: Malware Ahead" (pdf) which talks about electrical systems that have become commonplace in today’s cars, and the emerging security risks surrounding those systems.

"The report highlights very real security concerns, and many in the auto industry are already actively designing solutions to address them," McAfee said. "Given the development time for automobiles, the industry is finding it essential to start work now by teaming up with those possessing the right mix of software expertise."

Airbags, radios, power seats, anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability controls, autonomous cruise controls, communication systems and in-vehicle communication systems -- all of these consist of embedded devices that could be susceptible to hacking in left unchecked. To make matters worse, the automobile industry is continually adding features and technologies to further personalize the driving experience, to keep the driver and the passengers connected to the world.

"Consumers want to stay connected, even in their cars, which is motivating automobile manufacturers to increase integration between cars and consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets," McAfee said. "However, in the rush to add features, security has often been an afterthought. The report highlights examples of how automotive systems have been compromised."

Some of the security risks the report covers includes remotely unlocking and starting car via cell phone, disabling a car remotely, tracking a driver’s location, activities and routines, stealing personal data from a Bluetooth system, disrupting navigation systems, disabling emergency assistance and more cybercriminal activity.

"Researchers at several universities have demonstrated that critical safety components of an automobile can be hacked if physical access to the vehicle’s electronic components is available," McAfee said. "Other researchers have showed that an attack can be mounted to track a vehicle and compromise passengers’ privacy by tracking the RFID tags using powerful long-distance readers at around 40 meters."

To read the full report, check out McAfee's document here.