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By 16 March 2011 | Categories: news

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Malware, viruses and hackers are the bane of today's technologically inclined society, but thus far their attacks have been relegated to personal computer systems for the most part.

But how would you feel if someone hacked into something that you trust your life to everyday? Your car for instance? According to ITWorld, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington have found a myriad of ways for hackers to gain access to your shiny new ride.

Looking for security flaws in the computer systems of modern vehicles, the team found that it is entirely possible for hackers to gain access to the car's computer over Bluetooth and cellular networks or through malicious software found in the diagnostic tools at repair shops.

Their most startling discovery however was that it was also possible to take over a car by utilising something seemingly much more innocent, the car's stereo system. The researchers found that by adding extra code to a digital music file (an MP3 for example), they were able to turn the song into a Trojan horse.

When the driver obliviously plays the song on the stereo it can alter the firmware of the audio system, gaining an entry point into the car's other components. The researchers believe this kind of malicious attack can be covertly carried out on file-sharing networks, with thousands potentially downloading the invasive file.

In an experiment conducted last year, the same team managed to infiltrate into a car's computer system, kill the engine, lock the doors, turn off the brakes and falsify speedometer readings. That particular experiment was carried out by plugging a laptop into the car's internal diagnostic system, but their latest research shows that there may be much more subtle ways of remotely commandeering a vehicle.

We wonder how long it'll take for security vendors to release 'in-car' versions of their latest anti-virus software. For now though, the more computerised your car, the more vulnerable it seems to make you.

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