Researchers banned from publishing data on luxury car hacks

The research on how to break into a computer-controlled car is there -- but it won't be entering the public domain.

A court order has prevented researchers from publishing a paper detailing codes that can be used to control luxury cars.

A research team led by the University of Birmingham's Flavio Garcia received the injunction after they discovered an algorithm which lets automated car systems recognize its owners by way of the ignition key.

Due to be presented at the Usenix Security Symposium in Washington DC this August, the British court order prevents the researchers from presenting the codes in a paper explaining how they were able to take control of two cars, a 2010 model Ford Escape and Toyota Prius, by using a laptop.

After using cables to connect the cars' electronic control units (ECUs) to a laptop, the researchers wrote software that overrode driver commands. While the car was being driven, the team were able to force commands including altering the steering, activating the brakes and dropping the fuel gauge to zero.

Vehicle ECUs are commonly used to control functions including steering, braking and acceleration.

A U.K. judge decreed that the code -- which can be used to control luxury cars including Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Porches -- must not be revealed as it could lead to unscrupulous use and an increase in car thefts.

The researchers were allowed to present the paper without including the codes, but declined.

Speaking to the BBC, the researchers said they wanted to promote and raise awareness of car control -- especially in a world where our vehicles are more commonly computer-dominated and connected to digital systems.

Via: BBC

Image credit: Bentley Motors

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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