Hit the brakes! How Secure is Your Car’s Computer?

As everyday items become increasingly computerized and Internet-connected, the convenience and efficiency of our lives has improved more than we could have imagined. Like something out of the Jetsons, we are seeing numerous technological advancements applied to kitchen appliances and other everyday household items to optimize our experience. Refrigerators, thermostats, cars and more are connecting over the Internet to report on and adjust settings to deliver great convenience.

What we may not realize is that with such convenience we create additional doorways for information thieves and cybercriminals to gain access to our lives. A Wi-Fi signal is all most hackers need to gain access to your Internet-connected appliances, and with more direct access, they can infiltrate any device that works with some type of computer. Many cars today utilize computer systems that run operations throughout your vehicle from the engine down to the brakes.

The overall safety of your vehicle used to be rather straightforward, regular maintenance through tune-ups, replaced brake pads, flushes and other scheduled upkeep. Unfortunately, with the incorporation of computer systems into newer car models, things are not so simple anymore. For example, just like my PC and mobile device in my newest car the manufacturer suggests that I periodically for newer versions of the car’s software to update. Contemporary vehicles now come with a highly complex network of computers that might be just as “hackable” as your computer or mobile device. In fact, the typical car today has around six million lines of computer code, allowing someone with the right skillset the ability to raise havoc.

This is particularly thought-provoking when you consider the increasing automation and Internet connectivity of any number of features integrated within modern cars—temperature control, seat movement, cruise control, cell phone pairing through Bluetooth (short-distance signals that connect your phone with speakers and radio to enhance your device use through the car systems), and more. Almost every car manufacturer offers some form of mobile service, external network and emergency assistance built directly into their vehicles.

But honestly, how do you protect your car’s computer from hackers? It is important to stay informed on new developments in security concerns. You never know when or where the next issue may arise. Especially considering how the Internet is increasingly being used to connect everyday devices in your home, car, work and other areas.

McAfee is presently working on addressing the problem, developing partnerships that will help to deliver new securities in the cars we drive. We are working with car manufacturers to identify the weak points in various vehicle computer systems and building in security measures to tackle those flaws.

As cars become increasingly computerized, automated and connected to the Internet, security systems will become everyday features in our daily use vehicles. You could soon see third-party developers selling car-computer protection software.

Whatever does lie ahead—don’t caught off-guard by attacks on your personal data that could even affect your physical safety through items you use on a daily basis.

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