WikiLeaks predicts such hacks could enable the CIA to "engage in nearly undetectable assassinations."
The US Central Intelligence Agency's hacking division has allegedly explored vulnerabilities to vehicle systems.
The revelation appears to have surfaced in a WikiLeaks database allegedly containing thousands of documents from the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.
One document outlining a 2014 meeting for the Embedded Devices Branch lists "vehicle systems (e.g. VSEP)" as a "potential mission area." The VSEP acronym is not identified, though it surfaces later in a note regarding QNX that says "big player in VSEP).
QNX is an operating system commonly used in embedded systems. One implementation, QNX CAR, is an infotainment platform used in millions of vehicles from various manufacturers.
"The automotive industry is heading into an area of a very integrated cockpit," QNX head John Wall said in a promotional video released last year. "You can't have safety systems that are completely separated from your navigation system or from your cluster."
WikiLeaks did not uncover any specific details regarding the CIA's vehicle hacking capabilities, but the organization speculates "it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations."
Less extreme applications for intelligence gathering might include eavesdropping via a hands-free microphone, or tracking of the vehicle's location, potentially utilizing modern vehicles' cellular modems for real-time monitoring.
Speculation regarding the CIA's ability to hack vehicles predates the WikiLeaks document. Journalist Michael Hastings died in 2013 when his Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe crashed into a tree and caught fire. He was allegedly working on a story about the CIA at the time, according to LA Weekly, fueling a conspiracy theory that the agency was involved in the accident.
Former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism, Richard Clarke, told the Huffington Post in 2013 that "there is reason to believe" intelligence agencies have developed the ability to remotely control certain vehicle systems and "do some really highly destructive things."
Aside from the vehicle hacks, the WikiLeaks documents point to a broader program that involves malware and hacking tools for iPhone and Android devices, smart TVs, routers and computers, among other devices.