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Luxury car hacking findings blocked by High Court

Volkswagen injunction blocks university lecturer's research from publication
Mon Jul 29 2013, 15:40

A COMPUTER SCIENTIST from Birmingham University has been prevented from publishing an academic paper that revealed how to hack into the control systems of luxury cars such as Porsches, Audis, Bentleys and Lamborghinis.

German car maker Volkswagen won a high court injunction blocking university security lecturer Flavio Garcia from releasing the research, which revealed the start codes for multiple car makers' vehicles.

Mr Justice Birss of the High court granted an injunction after it emerged that Garcia had cracked the security systems of cars by discovering the unique algorithms that allow the vehicles to verify the identity of the ignition key.

Volkwagen confirmed that it had obtained the High Court ruling today, but couldn't elaborate.

"We can simply confirm that the UK High Court has issued an interim injunction in Volkswagen's favour, against publication," a Volkswagen spokeswoman told The INQUIRER. "As it is pending a further case, we cannot comment further."

The injunction is an interim step in a case launched by Volkswagen's parent, which owns the four luxury marques, against Garcia and two other cryptography experts at a Dutch university. The injunction protested that the lecturer's findings could "allow someone, especially a sophisticated criminal gang with the right tools, to break the security and steal a car", the Telegraph reported.

We attempted to contact Garcia to find out how he discovered how to hack the cars' start codes, but had no luck. The University of Birmingham said on his behalf, "[The University is] disappointed with the judgment which did not uphold the defence of academic freedom and public interest, but respects the decision.

"It has decided to defer publication of the academic paper in any form while additional technical and legal advice is obtained given the continuing litigation. The University is therefore unable to comment further at this stage."

The imposed interim injunction means that Garcia, along with the paper's co-authors Roel Verdult and Josep Balasch, cannot publish their paper at the Usenix Security Symposium held in Washington DC in August, as they had anticipated.

However, the presentation, entitled Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lock-picking a Vehicle Immobiliser, is still listed online for all to see. µ


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