Lexus hits out at car virus claim

Car maker Lexus has hit back at stories suggesting its cars are vulnerable to mobile phone viruses. Having launched an investigation into the rumour a spokesman has dismissed the allegation as “without foundation”.

In late January SC reported that Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky was launching an investigation into the infection of navigation systems in two types of Lexus models.

The Toyota-owned company has moved to quash the rumours.

"Navigation systems in Lexus and Toyota vehicles do utilize an embedded operating system (OS) and some degree of random access memory (RAM) that is used to store several types of information such as recent destinations, names and attributes of saved destinations, and a telephone directory among other items," said Bill Ussery, Lexus product communications manager. "The operating system itself is proprietary, however, not Symbian."

"Although the Bluetooth interface does support the Object Push Protocol for transferring the phone book from a Bluetooth cell phone to the navigation system, this is an operator controlled event and the data cannot be exported (or transmitted) from the navigation unit," he added.

But despite Lexus' denial, Kaspersky claimed they were asked to investigate an onboard virus.

"We were asked if we had a cure, not if infection was possible," said David Emm, senior technology consultant at Kaspersky. "And it was specifically about Lexus models."

Since the SC report, a South-African technology company, Shaya Technologies, made unconfirmed claims that 150,000 cars in the US had been infected with a virus. That claim has been dismissed by some industry experts. Emm took a middle ground.

"We don't know about that figure. It could be Chinese whispers, there's definitely a chance of that," he said. "But it has sparked off thoughts. We're probably at the point now where we really need to start looking at this as a real issue. Enterprises need to think about how secure their technology is."

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