Autonomous car: A Security risk?

Google is set to step up its road testing of the company’s autonomous cars now that the vehicles have passed the Nevada driving authority test, but security experts warn of potential dangers.

Science fiction could soon become science fact thanks to investment by Google, and competitors, including car manufacturers and defence firms.

But autonomous vehicles aside, research firm Frost and Sullivan estimates that ordinary cars will soon need up to 300 million lines of software code.

As cars become increasingly connected, it exposes the automotive industry to the same threats as any other consumer device, warns Raj Samani, chief technology officer for Europe at McAfee.

While cutting edge advancements in technology could result in some impressive innovations, like driverless cars, he says, the industry must ensure that it is thinking about the security implications.

“For example, the first remote keyless entry systems did not implement any security and were easily compromised. As more and more digital technology is introduced into cars, the threat of malicious software and hardware manipulation increases,” he said.
Wireless devices like web-based vehicle-immobilisation systems that can remotely disable a car could potentially be used maliciously to disable cars belonging to unsuspecting owners, said Samani, citing a recent case in Texas where 100 vehicles were disabled from a remote disable system.

The system had been installed by the car dealership, but was maliciously manipulated by a disgruntled former employee who remotely disabled the cars and wreaked havoc by setting off the car horns.

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