The Coming Carputer Virus Apocalypse

As cars onboard computer systems become more complex, more connected and more popular can we realistically expect to see the emergence of the car virus in much the same way that the computer virus first began appearing en masse over a decade ago as computers began connecting to the internet in large numbers? It was announced recently that the new Nissan Leaf would be running the Windows Embedded Automotive 7 operating system, this is essentially a reworked version of Windows 7 and the two are compatible in almost every regard, Windows 7 is reportedly vulnerable to 8/10 viruses which means Windows Embedded Automotive 7 may begin to encounter issues as more and more cars get internet connectivity with the OS using no anti-virus/spyware/malware protection.

Back in 2007 the GPS device maker TomTom admitted the accidental inclusion of two Windows malware variants in one of its products, possibly making it the first time a car’s onboard systems were infected with a virus. Now that Microsoft, the Godfather of the virus vulnerable OS is in the embedded automotive software business many tech industry observers believe it is only a matter of time before we see trojan malware spreading into cars over always-on internet connections.

As these carputers become more commonplace it’ll be interesting to see if consumers are given the option of choosing their new car’s operating system. Will Ubuntu, Chrome, Android, Apple and Microsoft all be battling for dominance in the automotive software arena? Will Symantec, Sophos and Trend Micro release anti-virus applications for your Honda Civic? You bet your ass they will.

Now that we know Google is creating self-driving cars and Microsoft is creating in-car operating systems it may be only a matter of time before we see an enterprising Eastern European hacker develop a virus capable of infecting a self-driving car, taking over control and demanding a bank transfer in return for not crashing your car off the Golden Gate bridge.

Well maybe not. But that’d be a hell of a movie.

The car virus won’t pose much of a threat until the car’s computer has actual control of the drive controls, which won’t be for quite a while, in the meantime the worst that could happen is a blue screen of death or a loss of personal data, although the idea of hijacking a driver’s GPS and leading them on a wild goose chase isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

That’s another good idea for a movie. I should move to LA.

My 1974 Datsun 260Z doesn’t even have an onboard calculator so I think I’m safe for the time being. Would you be turned off buying a car that ran Windows/Mac/Ubuntu without giving you a preference?

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4 Comments

lemonaids

I think we should have the choice of software for any new car purchase by law. I want a Linux command line and nothing else. GUIs are for bitches.

MBayliss

Windows 7 isn’t that bad, way better than Vista or XP. still has visuses though. sometimes I wonder if Norton writes all the visuses.

The very idea of running Windows on a carputer is absurd. You don’t need 95% of its functionality — it’s a complete and utter waste. A carputer OS should be purpose-built, or purpose-customised from a small, modular kernel, and should interface with the Internet for pulling data (traffic, maps, etc.) and no executable code. If you can afford a car with a computer in it, you’re probably going to be carrying a phone that can do anything else — email, browsing, weather — a carputer could conceivably do.

Man I agree with lemonaids and Oolon Colluphid.

I do not want windows, and NO executable files and a solid-state hard-drive would be best to have as spinning disc drives break too easy!


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