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Ottawa errs by banning hacking devices

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The device from the company Flipper Zero is a of the most famous hacking tools, among others on social networks.

  • Christian Noël (View profile)Christian Noël

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Banning over-the-counter hacking devices will not prevent car thefts, say experts and police consulted by Radio-Canada. This proposal from the Trudeau government is seen by many as improvisation in the fight against vehicle theft in Canada.

It came out of nowhere, exclaims Francis Coats, a security engineering expert who teaches at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal (ETS).< /p>

He is surprised that Justin Trudeau's government wants to ban certain electronic devices which, according to Ottawa, are linked to car thefts.

Everyone in cybersecurity has made the jump, he says.

On the sidelines of its summit on car theft in early February, the federal government announced its intention to ban the sale and use devices used to steal vehicles, such as the Flipper Zero and other types of over-the-counter hacking devices.

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Federal, provincial and municipal authorities as well as police forces and other stakeholders gathered on February 8 at the National Summit on the Fight against Auto Theft.

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

However, security experts and police officers contacted by Radio-Canada believe that this risk is exaggerated. Banning these devices in Canada, according to them, will not put obstacles in the way of real criminals.

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ELSE ON INFO: The anticipated Trump-Biden duel, a symptom of the rise of gerontocracies?< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It won't change much on the ground, explains a police source, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

There are already many tools of this type which are banned in Canada and which are still used by car thieves. Banning two more models isn't going to make much difference.

A quote from A police source

In addition, commercially available RDL devices, such as the Flipper Zero, are rather rudimentary, according to many security experts.

You cannot use a Flipper Zero to unlock or start a recent car, says Guillaume Ross, security manager at Jupiter One, a software design firm.

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Guillaume Ross is at the origin of the petition SaveFlipper.ca, which aims to overturn the government's decision to ban the sale of tools like Flipper Zero.

Modern keys never use the same unlock code. Instead, they use a series of rolling codes. So, even if the signal is captured by a device, it cannot be reused to gain access to vehicles, explains Guillaume Ross.

Ottawa is completely on the wrong track and should abandon this attempted ban, according to him.

In an open letter signed by 915 people who work directly or indirectly in the field of security, Guillaume Ross writes that Ottawa's proposal is ill-advised and based on a misunderstanding of the technology […] based on assumptions outdated and poorly informed.

This is one of the first times I have seen such unanimity in the security expert community.

A quote by Francis Coats, safety engineering expert

Federal motor vehicle safety regulations in Canada are woefully outdated, believes Bryan Gast. The Vice President of Investigative Services, Equity Association explains that the existing standards were introduced in 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies became widespread.

Any measure to make it harder for criminals to steal your vehicle is a good thing, including modernizing vehicle safety standards, says Bryan Gast.

The company Flipper Zero, which is named in the federal government's announcement, claims to have not been contacted by the federal government, according to its founder, Alex Kugalin.

We requested a response [on the X network] from the Minister of Innovation [François-Philippe Champagne], specifies Alex Kugalin. What evidence was he using to ban our device? We haven't received a response, he said.

Security experts contacted by Radio-Canada wonder what evidence the federal government relied on to take this path.

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Francis Coats, an expert in security engineering , teaches at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal (ETS).

In Ontario and Quebec, there are few luminaries in the field, notes Francis Coats.

I could invite them over for dinner and I would have enough two or three pizzas to feed them, he continues. But we cannot find who was consulted by Ottawa.

The government replies that it is still studying the best way to move forward with its ban on hacking devices.

You know, when you fight [against] organized crime, nothing is instantaneous. We must take several measures that the Minister [of Public Security, Dominic] LeBlanc, is looking at, and what is certain is that our message, our goal, is to make life difficult to criminals, declared the Minister of Innovation, François-Philippe Champagne.

At the office of Minister of Innovation, spokesperson Audrey Champoux supported this: The Flipper Zero can be used for purposes other than those intended by its manufacturer.

The ban under consideration targets a multitude of other lesser-known hacking tools used for non-legitimate purposes, she noted.< /p>Start of widget. Skip widget ?End of widget. Return to top of widget ?

Amazon already prohibits the sale of these devices on its site.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In the United States, the National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends that governments limit access to this potentially dangerous technology. But the Bureau acknowledges that it has no data on the prevalence of the use of these devices in vehicle thefts.

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

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

RDL devices and other digital gadgets help them find simple vulnerabilities in security systems and plug the breach before criminals slip through.

If we ban the tools that allow us to make research, we won't be able to tell when we find bugs in systems to improve them.

A quote from Guillaume Ross, head of security at JupiterOne

According to him, the problem comes not from RDL devices but from manufacturers who produce vehicles that have vulnerabilities.

Guillaume Ross believes that the government should work with manufacturers to raise safety standards.

He even suggests penalizing manufacturers according to the number of vehicles stolen in a year in order to create a financial incentive to better secure vehicles.

With the collaboration of Marie Chabot-Johnson

  • Christian Noël (Consult profile)Christian NoëlFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116