Mobile Malware Targets Automobiles

by Matt Klassen on September 8, 2011

With the effusive spread of mobile technology into every facet of our lives and the concomitant rise of devious and devastating hacker attacks, it’s really only a matter of time before the two stories converge. Now, with mobile technology appearing in our vehicles, our kitchen appliances, television sets and almost everything in between, how long will it be until some angry tech savvy neighbour hacks into our fridge and thaws all our food?

While I admit such petty hacker crimes may be unlikely, technological security firm McAfee is warning of the looming real threat of hacker attacks in these other areas of our digital existence (PDF), as the increased introduction of wireless mobile technology into the various facets of our lives brings with it a concurrent threat of hacker attacks.

That said, there’s no question that it’s annoying to have one’s email or computer hacked, an attack that often times leaves personal information vulnerable, but having one’s car hacked in some digital age carjacking carries with it a serious risk to one’s personal safety…and McAfee warns it’s just around the corner, suddenly giving a whole new definition to the phrase “mobile malware.”

“As more and more functions get embedded in the digital technology of automobiles, the threat of attack and malicious manipulation increases,” said Stuart McClure, an executive at McAfee. “It’s one thing to have your e-mail or laptop compromised but having your car hacked could translate to dire risks to your personal safety.”

For some it may sound like an ominous warning about some distant and dark technological dystopia, something out of a Terminator movie perhaps, for me it sounds like a damning critique. It seems like everyday in my role as a technology and telecommunications blogger I get a story across my desk about the results of technological dependence.

While yesterday the stories of people driving into fields or streams because their misguided GPS told them too brought a smile to my face, it looks like the technological dependence stories of tomorrow will be no laughing matter, as one can now imagine people being driven into fields or streams on the whim of a devious hacker…instead of on the whim of a GPS.

Although I would hesitate to call the threat of wireless manipulation on transportation imminent–despite the fact that hacking tests were able to steal information on driver habits and location–more serious attacks certainly remain a viable possibility, which begs the question, will security firms like McAfee be able to keep us safe?

To answer that McAfee will of course say “yes,” they alerted us to the threat after all, but if the experience of this past summer of devastating hacker attacks has proved anything, its that cybercriminals are almost always a few steps ahead of the legitimate security professionals, meaning that if cars can be hacked, hackers have probably already devised a way. Seeing what mobile malware can do to a phone, I shudder to think what it could do to a car.

That said, while I would scoff at any overreaction to this story involving the avoidance of cars and fridges over fears of technological rebellion, perhaps a little more exercise and a little less eating could do us all some good.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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peterw September 9, 2011 at 2:48 am

Here’s a brilliant infographic on the threat of mobile malware from @TheAtlantic

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