Several companies and organizations are working to protect the computer systems of cars from compromise and attack. The Intel McAfee unit is one of a handful of firms that are looking to protect the dozens of tiny computers and electronic communications systems that are built into every modern car.

Security experts said automakers have so far failed to adequately protect these systems, leaving them vulnerable to hacks by attackers looking to steal cars, eavesdrop on conversations, or even harm passengers by causing vehicles to crash. Several research papers also highlighted vulnerabilities including the dissemination of worms and trojans via wireless networks, onboard diagnostic ports, and CDs. To date there have been no reports of violent attacks on automobiles using a computer virus, according to SAE International.

Yet, a Ford spokesman said his company had tasked its security engineers with making its Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant as possible to attack. Physical consequences are also among the possible risks, as one research group created a virus that can simultaneously shut off the car lights, lock its doors, kill the engine, and release or slam on the brakes.