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Hackers join McAfee to combat electric vehicle viruses

Hackers join McAfee to combat electric vehicle viruses

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A team of hackers working for security company McAfee is one of a small number of firms considering the ways to protect electric vehicles (EVs) from security threats.

A team of hackers working for security company McAfee is one of a small number of firms considering the ways to protect electric vehicles (EVs) from security threats, Reuters reports.

Automakers may be jumping at the chance to fit cars with a number of gizmos aimed at enticing consumers, including wireless connections and dashboard apps, but as these vehicles use the same wireless technology that mobile devices and personal computers use, they are also vulnerable to the same security flaws.

The consequences of remote attacks have serious consequences. From theft to eavesdropping on conversations, if a car's security is compromised, it could also confuse navigation systems and potentially cause accidents.

Due to this, McAfee's team are working in a West Coast garage to discover electric bugs that could not only disrupt car manufacture and development, but compromise the security of the general public.

To date, there have been no severe attacks on EVs through viruses. However, as governments push consumers to switch to energy-saving car models -- including the release of comparative tools -- and major dealers including Ford investing millions in EV development, the problem has the potential to become serious.

Ford spokesman Alan Hall told the publication that security engineers were currently making their Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant to remote attacks as possible.

"Ford is taking the threat very seriously and investing in security solutions that are built into the product from the outset," he said.

A number of studies have already proven that it is possible to break into an EV, including altering tire pressures and preventing a car from using its brakes.

McAfee executive Bruce Snell said:

"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."

Recent reports have predicted that electric vehicle sales across the globe will top 130 million by 2025.

This post originally appeared on CNET.

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure