Report points to serious security gaps in vehicles using wireless technology

There exist serious gaps in security and customer privacy in nearly every vehicle using wireless technology, according to a report set to be released today by a senator's office, The New York Times reported.

The report concluded that security measures to prevent hackers from gaining control of a vehicle's electronic systems were ''inconsistent and haphazard,'' and that the majority of automakers did not have systems that could detect breaches or quickly respond to them.

Senator, Edward J Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, whose office published the report after obtaining detailed information from 16 automakers, said drivers had come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers had not done their part to protect users from cyber attacks or privacy invasions.

The report found ''a clear lack of appropriate security measures to protect drivers against hackers who may be able to take control of a vehicle'' or hackers who wish to ''collect and use personal driver information,'' and expressed concerns over how automakers tracked drivers' behavior and collected, transmitted and stored that information.

According to the report, large amounts of data on driving histories were harvested, frequently without consumers being explicitly aware that the information was being collected or how it would be used.

Meanwhile, AP reported that while automakers were cramming cars with wireless technology, they had failed to adequately protect those features against the real possibility that hackers could take control of vehicles or steal personal data, according to an analysis of information that manufacturers provided to Markey.

Markey asked automakers a series of questions about the technologies and any safeguards against hackers built into their vehicles. He further asked how information that vehicle computers gathered and often transmitted was wirelessly protected.

The senator asked questions after researchers showed how hackers could get into the controls of some popular cars and SUVs and make the vehicles suddenly accelerate, turn, sound the horn, turn headlights off or on and modify speedometer and gas-gauge readings.

With today's cars and light trucks containing 50 electronic control units that effectively functioned as small computers nearly all new cars on the market today included at least some wireless entry points to these computers, such as tire pressure monitoring systems, Bluetooth, internet access, keyless entry, remote start, navigation systems, WiFi, anti-theft systems and cellular-telematics, the report said.