The University of Washington released an interesting, as well as lengthy and detailed, report about the security of automotive electronics, more precisely the lack of security. I would encourage you to read the report in full, it’s pretty eye opening.
The key finding is that hackers will not be far behind auto makers attempts to open up their tech platforms to third party applications. This made me think back to the networked car panel at Gigaom’s GreenNet event a few weeks ago… the singular point that auto makers focused on in that panel was the threat of distracted driving and not once was security and integrity of the on board computers discussed. In the case of Ford they seemed to defer the technical dimensions of their on board Sync platform to key partner Microsoft, like that makes me feel better.
Aside from the inconvenience of having a vehicle disabled by rogue code, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the consequences for Toyota in their recent “unintended acceleration” fiasco if it were determined that the life threatening vehicle behaviors were the result of hackers.