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UK High Court blocks researchers from releasing luxury cars hacking details

The researchers were scheduled release the details during the USENIX Security Symposium in Washington.

By CBR Staff Writer

A High Court judge in the UK has banned three security researchers from revealing details of hacking luxury cars.

The researchers recently released an academic paper describing methods to detect several computer codes used on Volkswagen vehicles, including codes to start the cars’ engines.

Scientists Roel Verdult and Baris Ege, both Radboud University researchers, and Flavio Garcia from University of Birmingham, demonstrated the lack of security in the Megamos chip used in immobilisers in various automobile brands.

They said the chip dates back to the mid-nineties and has since become outdated, but is nevertheless still widely used in the automotive industry.

They had been due to publicise their findings at the upcoming USENIX Security Symposium in Washington.

But Volkswagen’s solicitors Thales obtained an interim ruling after arguing that the data may be used by criminals.

Reacting to the court’s ruling, Radboud University said: "The decision of the English court imposes severe restrictions on the freedom of academic research in a socially highly relevant field."

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A team of US security researchers recently claimed that vulnerabilities in a car’s information system can enable them to hack into it using their laptops.

Under the project, researchers hacked a Toyota Prius and a 2010 Ford Escape by using cables, which were used to connect the devices to the vehicles’ electronic control units (ECUs) through the on-board diagnostics ports.

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