Remotely controllable cars

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NYT reports on Hughes Telematics' plans to provide networked access to various aspects of your vehicle's operations:
Hughes Telematics, which is behind the communications systems in Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz vehicles that are to make their debuts this summer, is headed in that direction. Its next-generation technology, expected to appear in 2010, would allow drivers to install software in their cars, just as iPhones let users download applications to their handsets.


Other applications proposed by Hughes include remotely starting a car, resetting its alarm or unlocking the doors with an iPhone. Unlike wireless key fobs, commands could be sent to the car over the Internet.

I hate to sound like the stereotypical computer security guy, but the risks here seem pretty obvious: it's one thing to have your car stereo Internet accessible, after all if you're driving your car stereo from your iPhone, you already have that. It's quite another to have your engine be remotely controllable, which is obviously necessary for a remote start. One has to wonder what other parts of the car's operational electronics are accessible from the same computer. It's bad enough that someone could potentially steal your car remotely, though key fob to car protocols are often pretty insecure anyway; you really don't want someone turning off your car remotely. You might think that this problem could be solved with adequate comsec measures and firewalls to prevent remote penetration of the car computer. That's a hard problem in and of itself, but as soon as you start adding communications-style apps you need to worry about remote malware infection.

Obviously, what you really want here is to have the operational electronics airgap isolated from anything that you can install new software on. Ordinarily I would expect the people designing this kind of system to do that (No, really, I've met some of them and they're cautious), but if you're going to have remote start, you need some kind of integration, so I wonder how this is expected to work.

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