Modern cars liable to cyber-attacks

The reliance that modern cars have on computers renders them vulnerable to –cyber-attacks, which could lead to hackers being able to remotely disable them, so says a new report from McAfee. The report has been released in conjunction with the security firm Escrypt and the mobile software company Wind River. It states that a cars on-board safety system could be hacked, and cites a demonstration of this very thing.

Last year, researchers from the Universities of Washington and California demonstrated

how the critical safety components of a car could be hacked if there was physical access to these components from inside the passenger cabin. The report added that this kind of cyber-attack could also be carried out remotely by exploiting the Blue Tooth capabilities which now come as standard in many modern vehicles.

The researchers found that web based vehicle immobilisation systems could remotely disable a car when manipulated by hackers. Whilst these immobilisation systems are supposed to be theft deterrents, they can be used maliciously to disable cars. Privacy issues have also been raised due to the use of RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, tags. These are used in a car’s tyres and provide sensory data over short distance wireless communication to the car.

The report also states that the researchers demonstrated that an attack could be mounted by tracking these RFID tags using powerful and long distance readers from as far as 40 metres away. Car manufacturers view electronic features as selling points, yet, according to the report, they also represent risks.