Banning hacking devices won’t prevent car thefts, security experts say

The Trudeau government’s proposal to ban over-the-counter hacking devices will not prevent car theft, say experts and police sources consulted by Radio-Canada.

These experts say the government is improvising in its fight to reduce the number of car thefts in Canada.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Francis Coates, a security engineering expert who teaches at the École de technologie supérieur de Montréal (ETS).

On the sidelines of an auto theft summit in early February, the federal government announced its intention to ban the sale and use of over-the-counter hacking devices like the Flipper Zero, devices it says can be used to steal vehicles.

The government fears that these devices (known as software-defined radios, or SDRs) could copy and reproduce the signals used to unlock and start vehicles.

Exaggerated risk?

However, security experts and police sources told Radio-Canada they believe the risk from such devices has been exaggerated. To see also : Silynxcom Shares Continue To Rally, Higher By 22% Since February On Multiple Purchase Orders For Its Leading In-Ear Communications Equipment ($SYNX). Banning them in Canada, they say, won’t stop the real criminals.

“Not much will change on the street,” said a police source, who asked not to be named so they could speak freely.

“There are many devices of this type that are already banned in Canada and are still being used by car thieves,” the source said in French. “Banning two more models won’t make much difference.”

And commercially available devices like Flipper Zero are pretty rudimentary, according to many security experts.

“You can’t use Flipper Zero to unlock or start a newer car,” said Guillaume Ross, security manager at Jupiter One, a software development firm.

Guillaume Ross has started a petition aimed at overturning the government’s decision to ban the sale of tools like the Flipper Zero. (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada)

Modern keys never use the same unlock code twice in a row. Instead, they use a series of rolling codes. So even if the signal is picked up by a device, it can’t be reused to access vehicles, Ross said.

Ottawa is “completely on the wrong track” and should abandon the idea of ​​a ban, he said.

In an open letter signed by 915 people who work directly or indirectly in the security industry, Ross wrote in French that Ottawa’s proposal was “ill-advised and based on a misunderstanding of technology … based on outdated and ill-informed assumptions.”

“This is one of the first times I’ve seen such unanimity in the security expert community,” Coates said.

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Lack of consultation

Alex Kugalin, founder of Flipper Zero, which is named in the federal government’s announcement, said his company had never been contacted by the federal government before the announcement. Read also : Which countries would benefit most from an IMF SDR increase.

Cougalin said the company went to X, formerly Twitter, to ask Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to cite the evidence he used to justify banning the device. He said the company had not received a response.

Security experts contacted by Radio-Canada say they also wonder where the federal government is getting its advice.

There are few experts in the field in Ontario and Quebec, Coates said.

“I can have them over for dinner and I’ll have enough two or three pizzas to feed them,” he said. “But we can’t find who Ottawa consulted with.”

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The federal government is responsible

The government says it is still considering how best to move forward with its ban on hacking devices. On the same subject : Judge Blocks Arkansas Law Requiring Parental OK For Minors To Create Social Media Accounts.

Champagne said Wednesday that senior police officials who gathered for the summit earlier this month supported a ban on such devices.

“We have to look at all the tools at our disposal, and banning hacking devices is one of them,” he told reporters in French. “The goal is to make life more difficult for criminals.

Flipper Zero can be used for purposes other than those intended by its manufacturer, said Champagne spokeswoman Audrey Champoux. The ban under discussion targets a host of other, lesser-known hacking tools used for illegitimate purposes, she said.

WATCH | The federal government is holding a summit on auto theft, but concrete solutions are scarce:

The federal government is holding a summit on auto theft, but concrete solutions are scarce

Political leaders, law enforcement and industry representatives met in Ottawa to discuss the spiraling scourge of car theft in Canada, but concrete solutions were scarce.

Amazon is now banning the sale of the devices.

In the United States, the National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends that governments restrict access to this potentially dangerous technology. But the bureau also admits it has no data on how often these devices are used in vehicle thefts.

In Canada, neither the federal government nor the Insurance Bureau of Canada has data on this.

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Protecting their tools

Security experts admit the over-the-counter hacking devices Ottawa wants to ban are part of their everyday toolkit.

Such digital gadgets help them find simple loopholes in security systems and plug the breach before criminals get in, they say.

“If we ban the tools that allow us to do research, we won’t be able to know when we find bugs in systems to improve them,” Ross said.

He said the problem is not with the devices, but rather with the manufacturers who produce vehicles with vulnerabilities.

Champagne said Wednesday that the government plans to issue licenses to people who use the devices for legitimate reasons.

“If there are people who use them legally to help us fight crime, it is clear that we will give them a license to operate,” he said in French. “Everybody understands that in the industry.

Ross said he believed the government should work with vehicle manufacturers to raise safety standards. He proposes penalizing manufacturers according to the number of stolen vehicles in a year to create a financial incentive to create safer vehicles.

The Équité Association, which investigates insurance fraud on behalf of member insurance companies, said in a statement to Radio-Canada that Canada’s motor vehicle safety regulations are “horribly outdated” and need to be modernized.

The standards were introduced in 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies were widespread.

“Criminals are already taking advantage of these outdated standards and are able to quickly and easily exploit these vulnerabilities, which has led to this significant increase in stolen vehicles across Canada,” said Brian Gast, Équité’s Vice President of Investigative Services.

“Any steps that can be taken that make it harder for a criminal to steal your vehicle in the first place are a good thing, including upgrading vehicle safety standards.”

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