Car virus rumours crushed

F-Secure failed to penetrate a Toyota Prius with a mobile phone virus, but succeeded in learning the importance of not running down a car battery...

Antivirus experts have concluded that mobile phone viruses are unable to infect cars.

Technicians at F-Secure announced on Monday they had quashed rumours that mobile phone viruses could spread to cars via Bluetooth, after failing to infect the onboard computer of a Toyota Prius with the mobile phone virus Cabir.

This test comes after Russian antivirus company Kaspersky revealed in January that it had been contacted by someone looking to remove a virus from a car's computer.

"It came as no surprise that we could not infect the car, but the Prius performed in the test even better than expected," wrote F-Secure technician Jarno on the company's blog. "No matter what we did the car did not react to the Bluetooth traffic at all. Cabir tried to send itself to the car and the car just did not allow the transfer to happen."

The Toyota Prius, which has the same onboard computer as the Lexus cars reported in the initial rumours, supports Bluetooth so that phone book contacts can be transferred from a mobile phone to the car's built-in phone. The technicians took the car 42 metres below sea level and used a Cabir-infected phone to try and infect it.

However, they were given a shock when the dashboard warning lights suddenly activated and all other functions in the car went dead. The onboard computer displayed the message: "The transmission lock mechanism is abnormal. Park your car on a flat surface, and fully apply the hand brake."

"Thoughts of massive product recalls started to float in our minds," said F-Secure. "So we started from scratch and double checked everything. Going through the standard process of elimination by switching all Bluetooth devices off and waiting for some time, the problem repeated itself."

After three attempts with the same result, the technicians found that the battery was running low.

"The car computer was going haywire because of that, and the problem had nothing to do with Bluetooth! But those were quite tense moments indeed — we almost thought that the impossible might have happened."