Feeds

McAfee puts Barnaby Jack on car-jacking hackers' case

Security whiz to thwart actual crashes

Seven Steps to Software Security

McAfee has put together an elite team of researchers to investigate how to go about protecting car systems from next-generation hacking attacks.

Members of the team include Barnaby Jack, the security researcher best known for demonstrating ways that crooks can force ATMs to spit out cash and for highlighting security shortcomings in insulin pumps.

Modern cars increasingly rely on embedded processors. Security researchers have already demonstrated how these embedded systems might be hacked to generating bogus tire blowout warning messages or pull off other dangerous exploits. Attack scenarios include injecting malware using via on-board diagnostics systems, wireless connections and booby-trapped CDs.

No such attacks have ever taken place in the real world but car manufacturers and auto industry associations are already aware of the possible risk.

SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries, has put together a number of technical papers that look into information security risks that look beyond potential concerns about hacking into electronic vehicle access systems, which have been an issue for several years.

"Vehicles include more and more electronic systems and open communication channels based on public standards, making them vulnerable to a variety of attacks," the abstract to one recent SAE technical paper explains. "Security mitigation mechanisms are implemented in software and might be supported by a controller with basic security features," it adds.

"Any cyber security breach carries certain risk," said Jack Pokrzywa, SAE's manager of ground vehicle standards, the Daily Tech reports. "SAE Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee is working hard to develop specifications which will reduce that risk in the vehicle area."

Meanwhile Ford and Toyota have both recruited information security experts to look into the potential problem. Ford, for example, has hired infosec experts to make its SYNC in-vehicle communications and entertainment system more resistant against hackers and malware.

The McAfee team will be assigned to looking into much the same issues but with a slightly different mandate, geared towards developing security software and other protection technologies suitable for car-based embedded computing systems.

Bruce Snell, a McAfee executive managing the firm's research on car security, told Reuters via PCPro. "If your laptop crashes you'll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening.

"I don't think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary," he added. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.