May 212010
 
An electronic control unit (ECU) from a 1990 G...
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The computer systems used to control modern cars are very vulnerable to attack, say experts.

An investigation by security researchers found the systems to be “fragile” and easily subverted.

The researchers showed how to kill a car engine remotely, turn off the brakes so the car would not stop and make instruments give false readings.

Despite their success, the team said it would be hard for malicious attackers to reproduce their work.

Locked in

The team of researchers, led by Professor Stefan Savage from the University of California-San Diego, and Tadayoshi Kohno from the University of Washington set out to see what resilience cars had to an attack on their control systems.

“Our findings suggest that, unfortunately, the answer is ‘little,'” wrote the researchers from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security.

The researchers concentrated their attacks on the electronic control units (ECUs)scattered throughout modern vehicles which oversee the workings of many car components. It is thought that modern vehicles have about 100 megabytes of binary code spread across up to 70 ECUs.

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