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McAfee looks to combat vehicle viruses

Intel's McAfee security unit is working on ways to prevent vehicles from becoming vulnerable to malicious software.

Modern vehicles may be prey to the same security flaws that mobile devices and PCs face.

A team of researchers working for security company McAfee are considering the ways to protect vehicles from security threats, Reuters reports.

As automakers add more and more technology to their vehicles, they're also making them increasingly vulnerable to the same security flaws that affect PCs and mobile devices.

While the effects -- and likelihood -- of remote attacks are unknown, flaws in cars' systems could theoretically be exploited to steal the vehicle, eavesdrop on a driver's conversation, or even lead to navigation systems becoming confused and potentially cause accidents.

Studies have already proven that it is technically possible to hack into a car's on-board warning systems and alter its tire pressure, as well as prevent it from using its brakes.

To date, however, there have been no severe attacks on vehicles through viruses. Nevertheless, Intel-owned McAfee has a number of staff, based in a West Coast garage, checking out ways to protect the new generation of technology-packed cars.

McAfee executive Bruce Snell, who oversees research into vehicle security, said auto makers are fairly concerned about potential attacks using security flaws in car's systems. He told Reuters:

"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."