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Automakers Must Do More to Prevent Hackings: Report

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As owners of more than 2 million BMW vehicles recently learned, hackers are now targeting automobiles, and the problem is likely to get worse, warns a new report.

The study, overseen by Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, comes at a significant time, with automakers loading their vehicles with an assortment of new electronic features -– from digital safety systems to wireless infotainment technologies. And over the coming decade, a number of manufacturers are looking to launch new autonomous systems that could allow hands-free driving -– and even bigger opportunities for hackers.

"Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven't done their part to protect us from cyberattacks or privacy invasions," Sen. Markey said in a statement.

The release of the report came barely a week after Germany’s BMW revealed it was addressing a security flaw that could have given hackers the ability to remotely unlock the doors of 2.2 million vehicles sold by the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands.

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That might not be the worst of it. In lab situations, researchers have gone even further, accessing critical vehicle functions on some models, allowing them to sound horns, operate headlights, alter gas gauge and speedometer readings, even causing vehicles to accelerate without the driver’s input.

While the problem is today a relatively low risk, Karl Heimer, the senior research director at the Battelle Center for Advanced Vehicle Environments, recently told TheDetroitBureau.com, “You will see an increase in attacks” as manufacturers continue to add more technology and offer hackers greater opportunity to access personal data and steal vehicles.

More from The Detroit Bureau

--- Paul A. Eisenstein

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