White hatters working for Intel’s McAfee security division are taking the lead in protecting computers and electronic communications systems that are built into every modern car. Although there have been no reports so far of violent computer attacks targeted at cars, security experts believe that automakers have so far failed to “adequately protect its systems.” This leaves its customers vulnerable to hacks by attackers who are planning to steal cars, eavesdrop on conversations, or even harm passengers by causing vehicles to crash.

“If your laptop crashes you’ll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening,” said Bruce Snell, a McAfee executive. “I don’t think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary,” he added. In 2010, a group of U.S. computer scientists conducted a study that revealed how viruses could indeed damage cars. They also identified ways as to how computer worms and Trojans are transmitted to automobiles, either via on-board diagnostics systems, wireless connections and even tainted CDs played on radios systems.

However, they did not mention which car company specifically had the vulnerability. On the other hand, Ford said that the car company has already assigned security engineers to make its sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant as possible to attacks. Meanwhile, top automakers Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai declined to comment about any security vulnerability on its cars. “They’re basically designed to change coding constantly. I won’t say it’s impossible to hack, but it’s pretty close,” said John Hanson, a Toyota spokesperson.

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