McAfee develops anti-malware protection for cars


A team of white hat hackers from Intel's security division, McAfee, are working on ways to prevent cyber attacks on in-car computer systems.

Motor manufacturers are putting increasing amounts of technology into cars, making them increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The McAfee researchers are based in a garage on the West Coast of the US and are tasked with finding ways to protect tech-laden cars.

I don't think people need to panic, but the future is really scary.

McAfee executive Bruce Snell, who supervises research into car security, said manufacturers are concerned about attacks on cars using flaws in the vehicle computer systems.

"If your laptop crashes you'll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening," he told Reuters.

The researchers are already mindful of attempts to abuse weaknesses in vehicle security systems and have started to take vehicles apart to find flaws that could be used to inject viruses or other malware.

McAfee has also hired hacker-turned-security-analyst, Barnaby Jack, to uncover vehicle weaknesses.

In a research paper, Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile, it has been revealed that viruses are capable of releasing or engaging brakes, even at high speeds.

Such tactics could possibly kill people in the car as well as others in an accident. Scientists could also use malware to lock and unlock doors, start and disable engines and turn the headlights off and on.

There have been no reported incidents of hacked cars causing death or injury so far, but Snell said car manufacturers are very worried about the possibility.

"I don't think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary," he said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.