Cars and Viruses – Is it possible?

When we say virus, we are not talking about those micro celled organisms that cause infection or diseases. We are speaking about the more modern version of it, the computer virus. We are not living in the 60s or 70s where the cars were more about 4 wheels, steering and a means to travel faster. One cannot say the same about today’s cars. Cars are now valued based on the number of embedded systems they come with.  From the cruise control, air bag deployment to anti-locking and anti-braking systems, everything is digitalized. To put it in simple words, cars are more like smart phones with different applications.

If your car is a computer then it means it is prone to be affected by a virus. While you may not have heard of someone hacking into cars very commonly, it has certainly happened in the past. In the year 2010, hundreds of drivers in Texas called up customer support complaining that their cars are behaving strangely as if possessed by a spirit. The cars were not starting and the alarms seem to go on forever. The only way they were able to stop the alarms was to remove the battery from the cars. This wasn’t a coincidence or a failure in the making of the cars. The reason had the hand of a disgruntled but a brilliant employee who wanted to get even with his employer. This is just an example to show the vulnerability of the cars.

The cars have multimedia systems and control functions separately. So, the worst that can go wrong is your radio not tuning to your station and acting in its own mind. However with futuristic cars in the pipeline which integrates both these functions, there are possibilities of a hacker to easily gain control of a car from a remote location.

While there have been no explosive consequence of hacking so far with cars or owing to the malware downloaded onto car systems, we cannot expect the same to continue in future too. The hackers have not been tapping into automotive computers as it requires them to be physically involved. But the same cannot be expected in future. With cars connecting to social media like FB and providing the option to use multimedia devices like iPod, the chances of cars coming under the hacking radar is going up considerably.

The auto makers like Ford have taken this possibility into serious consideration and are already working towards a solution that will prevent the hackers from getting into their car’s automotive systems. There is however mixed opinion on the need for such preventive measures. While there are those who believe a preventive measure is required, there are also those who do not think there is any immediate danger.

Whatever is the case, this is definitely not going to stop us from dreaming about those SUVs and sedans and the systems we can upgrade or install into them. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to keep ourselves updated on the scenario.