Monday, October 1, 2012

Viruses in Google Cars? What about viruses in existing cars?

For those who haven't seen it, Loren Feldman has posted a video in Google+ where he shares his opinions on the new Google driverless car. (This was recorded following a Google+ discussion of the topic.)

To put it mildly, he's not enthused with the idea.

I happen to disagree with him on certain points, such as his concern about disabled people driving when they are physically unable to override the car's controls. In my view (something that I should probably explore in my tymshft blog), cars have already incorporated a ton of assistive technology long before driverless cars came along.

In the video, Feldman states the following:

And what about viruses? You don't think that people are going to be trying to just plant viruses in the car software?

This is a valid point. There are people who are going to try to hack the Google car, and considering the things that the software will be able to control, a successful hack can do a lot of damage.

But guess what? This is already a problem today. The non-Google cars, with drivers, already contain a lot of computer technology that can control major functions within the car. And how protected are the computers in your cars? Reuters discussed the issue:

Security experts say that automakers have so far failed to adequately protect these systems, leaving them vulnerable to hacks by attackers looking to steal cars, eavesdrop on conversations, or even harm passengers by causing vehicles to crash.

"You can definitely kill people," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit organization that helps companies analyze the potential for targeted computer attacks on their networks and products.

Read the rest of the Reuters article here, including the multitude of "no comments" from car manufacturers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As the article notes, many of today's cars are populated with "dozens" of electronic control unit computers, some of which can be accessed via Bluetooth and other wireless technologies.

While possibility does not equal probability, there is certainly the possibility that a modern automobile could be hacked. And even if it's not technically a "driverless" car that's hacked, there's nothing that the driver can do about it.

Other than making sure that the antivirus package for your automobile is up to date.
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