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Researchers: Car systems are vulnerable

New Brunswick -- New wireless technologies showing up in cars could compromise a driver's privacy and are a potential security and safety threat, U.S. researchers warn.

Researchers at Rutgers University say wireless sensors and devices, such as systems that monitor air pressure inside tires and trigger dashboard warnings if a tire's pressure drops, are becoming increasingly common on modern cars, a university release said Thursday.

The Rutgers scientists say signals from such wireless devices can be easily intercepted from as far away as 120 feet using a simple receiver. Since signals in tire pressure monitoring systems include unique codes, this raises concerns drivers' locations could be tracked, they say.

The devices lack common security protections such as input validation, data encryption or authentication, so a transmitter that mimics, or "spoofs," the sensor signal could easily send false readings and trigger a car's dashboard warning display. This could prompt a driver into stopping his or her car when there is actually nothing wrong with the tires, they say.

Marco Gruteser, Rutgers professor of electrical and computer engineering, said it's reasonable to expect other aspects of automobile operation will come under wireless control.

"A spoofed signal could potentially cause serious safety concerns if stability control or anti-lock braking systems relied on the data," Gruteser said. "So we are sounding the alarm right now."

The fact people could carry out those actions using publicly available radio and computer equipment costing a few thousand dollars shows that systems are vulnerable, he said,

Copyright 2010 United Press International

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