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Car alarm just an urban myth - at least for now. . .

webwatch

Readers sceptical about my enthusiasm for the browser Firefox, the Internet Explorer alternative, will be chastened to learn that it now has about 10 per cent of the business market, and is predicted to have a quarter of it in a few months' time. Unfortunately, serpent in paradise is ever the rule: Firefox's much-vaunted security may be illusory.

Pundits expect it to suffer just as badly on the virus front as Internet Explorer has in the past - simply because internet scumbags will turn their attentions to Firefox. Then we will all have to move on to the Opera browser. Maybe even buy Macs. Sorry.

One good bit of news last week was that reports of state-of-the-art car computers getting infected by viruses from handheld computers have been shown to be an urban myth. My source is that old friend The Register at www. theregister. co. uk/2005/05/10/ car_virus_myth_debunked/. Toyota rebutted a rumour that its Lexus car computers could be infected via Bluetooth by getting a company to attempt it - and, happily, failing.

But, in principle, when a car computer uses any well-understood operating system like Windows, there seems no obvious reason why it wouldn't be hacked in the reasonably near future.

You don't think that likely? Recently a number of ATMs in the US stopped working because they had been infected with the Slammer virus. How this happened has, of course, been wrapped in a big security blanket.

One theory is that infection can only come from inside an organisation, because ATMs and similar machines use severely stripped-down versions of Windows NT. And that includes stripping out any wireless connectivity.

So keep cool when you see someone gabbling numbers into their phone near the local ATM: they are just gabbling numbers. Aren't they? Whatever, when your brand new motor starts doing spectacular wheelies down your local street, remember, you read it here first.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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