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Stalling Cars Via OnStar

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the let-the-hacking-begin dept.

Hardware Hacking 737

Lauren Weinstein writes to tell us that GM will be installing OnStar systems on almost 1.7 million 2009-model cars that will allow law enforcement (or anyone who cracks the system) to remotely shut down vehicles. Here is the AP's writeup, which like most MSM coverage doesn't mention any privacy implications.

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On-Star (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918213)

Looks like someone used the same system on Slashdot.

It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (4, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918227)

...the implication being that it just slams on the brakes or kills the engine or both.

From TFA:

OnStar would call police and tell them a stolen car's whereabouts.

Then, if officers see the car in motion and judge it can be stopped safely, they can tell OnStar operators, who will send the car a signal via cell phone to slow it to a halt.

"This technology will basically remove the control of the horsepower from the thief," Huber said. "Everything else in the vehicle works. The steering works. The brakes work."

GM is still exploring the possibility of having the car give a recorded verbal warning before it stops moving. A voice would tell the driver through the radio speakers that police will stop the car, Huber said, and the car's emergency flashers would go on.

"If the thief does nothing else it will coast to a stop. But they can drive off to the side of the road," Huber said.


And from TFR (where "R" stands for "rant"):

The claim is that owners will have to give permission first for this capability to be enabled. Bull. I don't care what OnStar's privacy policy says, if the technical capability for this function is present, OnStar will have no practical choice but to comply when faced with a law enforcement demand or court order, whether or not owner "permission" was ever granted.

It is completely technically feasible for this system to need to be enabled in order for it to work. For example, with BMW Assist, BMW's OnStat-like service, equipment is physically disabled in the car if the user does not subscribe to a service.

This argument appears predicated on the belief that even if a customer doesn't voluntarily and willingly "opt in", that it can still somehow be used by police or hackers. I'm sorry, but that's simply not how it works.

Further, OnStar can currently be used to unlock vehicles. Why isn't that an "irresistible target for hackers"?

It's impossible to hack OnStar? Would you bet your life on that?

Um, no, because I wouldn't have to, nor would anyone else who opts in to the service?

And how long will it be before such systems are mandated, one might wonder?

Ah, my old friend, the slippery slope. Long time, no see!

This is no different than Lojack, which can also, in theory, be "activated" when a user chooses to have the service, in the same way this could be.

And if you don't believe GM's clearly stated privacy policies, which state, in short, that "OnStar will release information about a vehicle only for marketing research, to protect the rights, property, of safety of any person, in exigent circumstances, to prevent misuse of their service, when legally required to do so or when subject to a valid court order, or in various other circumstances", then you probably shouldn't buy a GM vehicle.

Good thing buying GM vehicles isn't mandatory, and GM isn't a government agency, huh?

(And of course -- and I didn't look at this at first -- because there is editorializing about how the "MSM" doesn't mention privacy implications, I'm not surprised to see it's posted by kdawson.)

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (3, Insightful)

t0xic@ (156547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918361)

This is all fine...until it becomes common to the point that just about "every" new car has them. Right now its hard to tell who has what system with the vast majority having no system at all. Once it is "assumed" you have one then it becomes worth it for people to hack it.

Not only that (3, Insightful)

cicho (45472) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918737)

but insurance companies will first offer discounts to car owners who have this enabled, and eventually you will not get auto insurance at all if you refuse.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (4, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918363)

Ah, my old friend, the slippery slope. Long time, no see!

That's not slippery slope; it's precedent.

Look at seatbelts or airbags. Maybe you can remember a time before they were federally mandated. Even the middle tail light on your back window is put there by government mandate.

I'm not saying that seatbelts or airbags are bad things, don't get me wrong; but ideally, a government wouldn't need to tell manufacturers how to build their cars -- people would buy cars with those features because they want a car that's safe. Likewise, I'm not arguing that the ability to hit a kill switch on a stolen car is a bad thing ... but as we've seen with everything from the Taser to the PATRIOT Act, the government will do as much as it can get away with, with the power it's given.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (2, Interesting)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918541)

All you did was restate the slippery slope fallacy? Where is the actual evidence that anyone is pushing to make this mandatory? Just because the government has eventually mandated some recommendations doesn't mean they will eventually mandate all recommendations.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (4, Interesting)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918717)

You know what, after I posted I remembered actually hearing about police wanting something like this to be mandated. I did a little googling and:

UK Police call for remote button to stop cars [guardian.co.uk] . So, if you are in the UK at least, no it would not be a slippery slope; they have already asked for this power to be added to all cars once it is safe. Interestingly, some politicians expressed interest in this being used as a way to prevent speeders by forcibly reducing your car's maximum speed around school zones or in bad weather.

Oh so you do not think they will? (1)

cicho (45472) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918809)

You don't tink they will mandate it? And why would they not? Have you ever, ever seen a government (any government) back down, ease regulations like these, forego a capability they once had? Have you ever seen a government decide they will no longer wiretap its citizens, for example, even though they can? Have you seen a government decide NOT to use that newly invented crowd control weapon? Ever?

The only time it happens, it seems to me, is when a country goes from an authoritarian rule to democracy (or what passes for one). When a tyrant gets deposed, the new government, formed of people who used to be in (underground) opposition, may begin with a shiny nice constitution, liberty for all and all that. After that, all a government does is ask for more and more power. You don't have to look far to see it happen.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (4, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918547)

Yes, I remember (barely) the shoulder belt, the air bag, and the center high mounted stop lamp, better known as the third brake light.

I also remember the arguments about shoulder belts and air bags killing people, and about how the CHMSL destroyed the aesthetics of the rear of a vehicle. Except that it was easily proven that the benefits of shoulder belts, air bags, and third brake lights outweighed any drawbacks.

What if a controlled remote kill of a vehicle under police supervision that has been reported stolen or is the subject of a court order has the same results? Returning stolen properly safely, preventing high speed police chases and death?

Same thing with Tasers. Tasers are statistically harmless, and a hell of a lot less harmless than a number of other ways of subduing a suspect, including lethal means. Whether Tasers are overused is a different question altogether, but being tased is a much better alternative than being forcibly subdued by any number of other means. Tasers are designed to be a safer and non-lethal ("non-lethal" in weapons terms doesn't mean "never, ever lethal or having any contributing effect on a possible lethal scenario whatsoever" - and please, don't link me to your favorite article or sob story about how oh-so-dangerous Tasers are: given their use, they are far, far less dangerous than the means they replaced).

And same with the PATRIOT Act. It was pretty much universally agreed that a lot of older laws needed updating. Given the size and scope of PATRIOT, only very, very small portions of it were controversial. Nearly all of the rest of it was benign or viewed as sensible by most people. Some provisions have been called into Constitutional question. But you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as we do when we imply that all of the PATRIOT Act rises to this level of controversy, when in reality it is very small portions of it, on the whole.

I don't fundamentally disagree with the government using the power it has, using anything it is given, and, inasmuch as it can be anthropomorphized, always "wanting more". But is this because of the evil or corruption or totalitarianism that is sometimes implied by such assertions, or because many in government simply use all the tools at their disposal? Governments and police agencies can do a lot more with vehicles, telephones, cameras, computers, databases, networks, Tasers, spike strips, and all manner of things than they can without. Technology is always enabling and is often a force multiplier.

Government mandates, and government in general, are not all sinister, nor are they all roses. But we should look at them on balance.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918807)

non-lethal ("non-lethal" in weapons terms doesn't mean "never, ever lethal or having any contributing effect on a possible lethal scenario whatsoever" - and please, don't link me to your favorite article or sob story about how oh-so-dangerous Tasers are: given their use, they are far, far less dangerous than the means they replaced).

I'm going to be pedantic here. I believe the term the industry uses is "less-than lethal". For exactly that reason. Rubber bullets, the bean bag rounds, tasers, etc...are all considered less-than lethal weapons.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918851)

Except that it was easily proven that the benefits of shoulder belts, air bags, and third brake lights outweighed any drawbacks.

Irrelevant.

I look through Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, and I can't find the part where Congress Shall Have The Power to make cars better.

When you allow feds to do anything that seems like a good idea, you set a precedent that it's ok for them to do anything that seems (to someone) like a good idea. That's how you got from "drugs are bad" to the feds arresting people for taking the medicine that their doctor recommends. That's how you got them collecting income tax and then distributing some of it to states that set speed limits the way feds want. That's how you get 'em spending money on a "bridge to nowhere." The list goes on and on.

It's bad enough if a local government demands that cars be remotely attackable; at least you can visit your city councilor and have it repealed. But cars tend to be regulated at the federal level. That means we'll never have a say, and get never get rid of it once it happens.

And same with the PATRIOT Act. It was pretty much universally agreed that a lot of older laws needed updating.

Yes, and instead of repealing those laws-in-need-of-updating, they got expanded.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (-1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918881)

Ahh so you're one of those intellectually useless "strict Constitutional constructionists" who never seem to FUCKING realize that the way the US Constitution was written and the way the real world works today do not mesh up 100%.

Nice to meet you.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918483)

OnStar will release information about a vehicle only for marketing research

Automated email from the Onstar Market-Track Service

Dear On Star customer,

      Our automated system noticed that your vehicle was parked on the 3500 block of AnyStreet and SomeAvenue. Our marketing info shows that this area of town is populated by the gay community. Please click on the following links if you would like to:

      See a list of gay bars in your area.
      Subscribe to Gay Porn weekly.
      Meet gay men near you.
      Browse our OnStar Market site for other gay related items.

      Thank you for choosing On Star! We value you as a customer.

      This is an automatic message, please do not reply.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918773)

See a list of gay bars in your area.

      Subscribe to Gay Porn weekly.

      Meet gay men near you.

      Browse our OnStar Market site for other gay related items.
You forgot one:

  • See a list of Apple Stores in your area.


Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918535)

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way."
--George W Bush 2004


Is AT&T a government agency? You are a fool who would gladly hand over your rights with a shit-eating grin on your face.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918607)

Your driving through the desert, vehicle shuts down and your Onstar system begins to talk to you.

Hi, this is the Nigerian Safe Driving Corporation, our systems indicate you were driving alone in the desert so we shut down your vehicle so we could safely talk to you. We think you need our assistance to drive safely through this area so if you will just give us your bank account information we will restart your vehicle and make sure you don't die of heat prostration or dehydration on the rest of your journey. Remember the Nigerian Safe Driving Corporation is set up to protect you but we can't help you without the required information.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (1)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918613)

(And of course -- and I didn't look at this at first -- because there is editorializing about how the "MSM" doesn't mention privacy implications, I'm not surprised to see it's posted by kdawson.)


He also posted all the other stories since 2pm. That's not to say this is or is not partially his fault, but I thought it might shed a little perspective in a kdawson bashing world :)

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (3, Informative)

DogsBollocks (806307) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918637)

Tinfoil hat on the antenna.

Onstar uses the cellular network, so stop the cellphone signal from getting to the electronics and they can't turn off the car.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (3, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918641)

"It is completely technically feasible for this system to need to be enabled in order for it to work. For example, with BMW Assist, BMW's OnStat-like service, equipment is physically disabled in the car if the user does not subscribe to a service.

This argument appears predicated on the belief that even if a customer doesn't voluntarily and willingly "opt in", that it can still somehow be used by police or hackers. I'm sorry, but that's simply not how it works."

Sure about that? Because such a feature is most easily enabled in software. For instance, the OnStar module sends a signal over the CANBus to the engine computer, telling it to go into the preprogrammed "stop, thief" mode. Now, what is there to "physically disable"? You can't simply "cut the connection" between OnStar and the ECM - it's only 2 wires (or 4?) and it carries all sorts of data. Sure, one could set a bit in the ECM that says "STOP_THIEF=disabled", but that bit is set via - wait for it - the CANBus. So the OnStar module could easily have a "suspected superbadguy" mode, where first the signal is sent to reset the bit - DESPITE the Owner's wishes - and then the "stop, thief" mode is activated.

Yes, it is possible to program hard protocols, or physical disconnects, and TFA is a candidate for a tin foil hat, but saying "it just can't happen" is naive at best.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (3, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918733)

You can physically seperate the OnStar module from the CANbus system to prevent this action from being taken. Once unable to communicate to the CANbus, non-drive/owner-initiated actions are mitigated. Keep in mind, you don't get to use any OnStar services afterwards once this is done.

I've performed this procedure for a friend (also remove the entire GPS antenna). I can dig up pics of the entire operation if interested.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (5, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918701)

It is completely technically feasible for this system to need to be enabled in order for it to work. For example, with BMW Assist, BMW's OnStat-like service, equipment is physically disabled in the car if the user does not subscribe to a service.

That is not the case with OnStar. Unless you break it yourself, it is always on. Even if you don't subscribe, the functionality is left on and operational. That way, you can just give them a call and they'll turn it on and bill you, no need to take it in to a dealership to take your money from you.

This is no different than Lojack, which can also, in theory, be "activated" when a user chooses to have the service, in the same way this could be.

That's an item that someone pays extra for to have their vehicle be able to be tracked. It isn't an included feature on many (most?) of the cars of one of the largest car makers on the planet. It's installed on very few cars by people that chose to have it installed.

And if you don't believe GM's clearly stated privacy policies, which state, in short, that "OnStar will release information about a vehicle only for marketing research, to protect the rights, property, of safety of any person, in exigent circumstances, to prevent misuse of their service, when legally required to do so or when subject to a valid court order, or in various other circumstances", then you probably shouldn't buy a GM vehicle.

You do know that GM may make OnStar, but OnStar is available on non-GM vehicles, right? How about the privacy policy on those? What if the law enforcement agencies like this and it becomes a "safety" requirement in the case of kidnappings and such and must be installed on all cars? Hey, they mandated airbags that killed infants in the name of safety, so why not this?

Once again daveschroeder slings the propaganda (5, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918823)

Our old friend daveschroeder, a completely unbiased source studying 'intelligence' at the American Military University, is there to tell us not to be afraid of our government.

He implies that this system will be under the owner's control, and that police will only activate the system when they can see the car, and know it can stop safely. Because the police always operate in such a safe and sane manner. And our government has never taken voluntary safety devices like seat belts or air bags and made them mandatory. And the government has never, ever lied to us.

Thanks again, dave! Without you, we wouldn't know what to be scared of (terrists) and what not to be scared of (the status quo).

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918849)

From TFA:

OnStar operators, who will send the car a signal via cell phone to slow it to a halt

So: they will send the car a signal. And then it will slow to a halt.

What part of this doesn't sound like 'remotely shutting down vehicles' to you? I had my engine fuck out on me about a year ago - cambelt snapped. All the power went away. Electricals worked, steering, brakes, so I could pull over to the hard shoulder just on inertia and phone for help, but you know what? I'd call that 'shut down', even though I was still moving. And if I'd been out in the right-hand lane instead of going relatively slowly on the left, I'd have been fucked - stranded out in warp-speed M5 traffic with rapidly dropping velocity trying to get across the carriageway to somewhere safe. And they propose to let someone have the authority to inflict that on me remotely via a mobile? Sorry. I don't trust anyone that much.

Re:It doesn't "remotely shut down vehicles" (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918885)

Additional: And if you don't believe GM's clearly stated privacy policies, which state, in short, that "OnStar will release information about a vehicle only for marketing research, to protect the rights, property, of safety of any person, in exigent circumstances, to prevent misuse of their service, when legally required to do so or when subject to a valid court order, or in various other circumstances"

In other words 'whenever the fuck we feel like it, for any reason whatever'. I mean, 'for marketing research'? So they'll sell your details to spammers. That's marketing research - for the spammer. 'Or in various other circumstances'? Wow, I feel secure trusting these people with my information.

Glad I own a Toyota! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918229)

Glad I own a Toyota! No bullshit remote turn-off doohickies

Re:Glad I own a Toyota! (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918521)

I have a 1986 Volvo. Not that I'm worried about someone shutting it down, but if a thief did steal it they'd have to figure out how to get it started.

Car personality == security

Obligatory Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918231)

In Soviet Russia, car hacks you!

Re:Obligatory Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918385)

In Soviet Russia, Obligatory Comment posts you!

Great... (5, Funny)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918241)

Now along with hardened thugs, we'll have half of the /. community hijacking cars!

Duh! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918245)

Whoever thought that giving corporations not only the exact location of your vehicle at any given time, but also complete control over it was a good idea?! I'm going to go ahead and point my finger at the yuppies...

Re:Duh! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918323)

I'm going to go ahead and point my finger at the yuppies...

Yuppies?? Welcome, strange traveller from 1987

Re:Duh! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918643)

No, the Yuppy subspecies is alive and well, I'm afraid. I'm surrounded by them in my subdivision, although, to be fair, most of them seem to be DINKs with topheavy mortgages and even bigger SUVs.

The American Dream in action, sort of. Well, not really I guess.

Another reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918253)

Another reason ill never sell my El Camino.

Re:Another reason (1)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918313)

Another reason ill never sell my El Camino.

What was the first?

Re:Another reason (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918801)

What was the first?
Gran Torino

California History (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918263)

We had a state rep here in CA named Mike Honda who proposed mandating a similar system for all cars here in CA 7 or 8 years ago. The privacy implications are horrendous. The idea never took root but he was rewarded by being elected to the US House.

Now I know I can bank on the stupidity of the american people - we are embracing the invasion of our privacy as a service.

all hope is lost.

Re:California History (5, Informative)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918523)

Now I know I can bank on the stupidity of the american people - we are embracing the invasion of our privacy as a service.
Not just in cars, 3 weeks ago I recieved a change in policy letter from Verizon for my cell phone. It said if I do nothing, they will be able to improve my service by tracking my location and selling that info to 3rd parties. If I wanted to opt out and risk not helping to improve the Verizon cell phone network, then I had to call a number.

How many people receive the same kind of letters everyday and either don't read them or fall for the increased service at the expense of privacy crap.

Re:California History (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918617)

Well of course "Mike Honda" would make a proposal that makes GM cars look bad.

Interesting, (1)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918269)

But what I want to know is this:

Is there any way for me to use the OnStar in my wife's van for anything else? There's gotta be a hack for this stuff.

Re:Interesting, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918443)

Yes, But only in the older onstar units. Is a mod to reuse the gps signal. I'd love to see an interface built for some plug and play fun. The onstar computer has access to the whole car I'd like to just hand that access over to a fpga or small via box that I control.

Re:Interesting, (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918779)

Build an interface to the CANbus system onboard, and you have a fair amount of control over the vehicle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controller_Area_Network [wikipedia.org]

I've worked on controllers to interface to CANbus systems on Toyota hybrid vehicles, to increase the total range using an additional battery pack. It's amazing some of the things you can do once tied into CANbus.

Slippery Slope (5, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918289)

I remember being told 'that will never take place, we are a passive monitoring service' early on when i asked about 'can you shut my car down remtotely'.

Next step is discounts on car insurance if you have one. Then you get penalized by higher rates, then it just becomes required by law, ' for your protection' of course.

Anyone remember how the seat belt laws did the same thing? "They are for your safety".. " cant build a car without one".. "you gotta wear one or you violate the law"..."well, we can only charge you if we stop you for something else nad notice it".. Now they have roadblocks..

Re:Slippery Slope (5, Interesting)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918603)

*Anyone remember how the seat belt laws did the same thing? "They are for your safety".. " cant build a car without one".. "you gotta wear one or you violate the law"..."well, we can only charge you if we stop you for something else nad notice it".. Now they have roadblocks*


Huh?? People rocket around at a mile a minute in fragile little tin roller skates. When two roller skates run into each other, the contents tend to get badly shaken up. Without seat belts, you're far more likely to be ejected or impact the steering column with your face. I acknowledge your right to freedom, but at the same time I have no wish to fund your care while you spend 30 years fading to black in a vegetative state because your brain got scrambled in a relatively minor accident.

br>That said, OnStar shouldn't be in a position to disable a stolen vehicle while its rolling because they cannot assess the potential for injury to others. There's no reason they can't simply disable a stolen vehicle while its stationary and pass on its location to the police.

Re:Slippery Slope (1)

Eternal Annoyance (815010) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918771)

While you might get some injury from a seatbelt, it certainly beats getting killed by a frontal crash at 120 KPH (whether you cause it or not). Seat belts were eventually required by law because manufacturers found it too expensive to put them in cars, well, the law fixed that.

This system is something completely different. It is wide open for abuse (where seat belts are not) but its intentions are well meant (a thief is stopped by simply turning off the car)... but people are bound to figure out how this works and stop legitimate flight attempts. And how about abuse of this by law enforcement departments (I understand the US justice system is fairly rotten)?

Nobody is forcing you to own a car (1)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918785)

What do you expect when the most communist aspect of the US is the road system. It's federally subsidized with tens of billions of tax dollars each year and almost all of your freedoms are null and void "for the good of the whole" and it does nothing but encourage wealth redistribution through inefficient consumption.

Opt out. Don't drive.

Wiretapping vis Onstar works well too... (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918299)

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=FBI+Wiretaps+via+Onstar&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
I am wondering if the electronics that are used to operate the Onstar system can be disabled without the car being rendered useless?
(as in pull the fuse)
Perhaps aftermarket companies will sell Onstar "Tinfoil Hats" to cover up the transceiver antennas on the Onstar systems to give the consumer a choice in if they want to use the system or not.

Re:Wiretapping vis Onstar works well too... (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918793)

I am wondering if the electronics that are used to operate the Onstar system can be disabled without the car being rendered useless?
(as in pull the fuse)
Perhaps aftermarket companies will sell Onstar "Tinfoil Hats" to cover up the transceiver antennas on the Onstar systems to give the consumer a choice in if they want to use the system or not.


Of course, if you can disable the engine-kill feature... Then so can a thief, rendering the system ineffective.

And of course, you don't want onstar, until you're in an emergency situation -- e.g. you've locked your keys in the car or your car's been stolen. But of course, it's too late to remove your "Tinfoil Hat" then...

It'd really make more sense to make onstar hardware installation optional, rather than wasting resources installing it in every car, and having a subset of buyers "disable" it after the fact.

running from the cops (1)

jammindice (786569) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918333)

ok i could see how this would be eternally useful if someone STOLE your car, but what if your just cruising and don't feel like stopping for said officer? (not saying i've done it, or recommending it) could they use it against you? probably... i wouldn't ever need onstar.... i'd rather use my cellphone to call about information or directions, or holy shit maybe plan ahead for a trip... and i keep a coathanger in the bed of my truck for those unfortunate incidents where i've become so forgetful as to leave my keys in the truck... and this stuff just goes too far, it's all about lazyness... or the american way whatever you want to call it...

cruising for a bruising (3, Funny)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918813)

but what if your just cruising and don't feel like stopping for said officer?

Then, O.J., the real fun begins.

People are going to PAY for these cars (4, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918337)

Its all well and good complaining that our government/corporate masters are tightening their control over their lives - but they couldn't do that without the cooperation of the masses.

There is no point directing your anger at opportunistic invasions of privacy. Direct your anger at the sheeple happily gambolling into the slaughterhouse. They are the ones that provide said opportunities.

Re:People are going to PAY for these cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918501)

I wonder if they're going to call it Trusted Motoring like Trusted Computing and DRM...

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.

GM should work on building running cars first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918343)

I think most GM product would die regardless...

Forget thieves, think teenagers! (4, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918353)

I imagine some parents would be thrilled about installing something like this in the car of their teenagers. "Come back by 10 pm or I'll shut off the car."

On a more serious note, not all tracking systems are inherently bad. There's an interesting story [pressdemocrat.com] about a teenager whose parents installed a GPS tracking system into his car. Now he's going to court as the GPS record shows he wasn't speeding, unlike the police officer who wrote him a ticket.

Re:Forget thieves, think teenagers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918439)

The issue here, from a privacy point of view, is that you want absolute control over that data. If it proves your innocence you want to use it. If it shows your guilt you want it subject to your rights under the Fifth. Remember, a warrant gives the bad guys the right to search but not a guarantee that they will find.

Re:Forget thieves, think teenagers! (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918583)

I imagine some parents would be thrilled about installing something like this in the car of their teenagers. "Come back by 10 pm or I'll shut off the car."

Yeah, brilliant fucking plan there, Einstein. You DON'T KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILD IS. He could be on his way home on the freeway when his car suddenly shuts off, he collides with something and dies. Or he could be in the worst part of town, and you've just STRANDED him there. God, I hope you don't have kids.

Re:Forget thieves, think teenagers! (2, Funny)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918755)

That's why you use the GPS function first. Plus they arent stranded, just slow as sin..

Re:Forget thieves, think teenagers! (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918775)

That's why you use the GPS function first. Plus they arent stranded, just slow as sin..

Calling him on the phone isn't an option? By stranding him what are you accomplishing? You want him home so... You make it impossible for him to get home?

Re:Forget thieves, think teenagers! (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918811)

If OnStar can turn the car off, they can also provide the GPS location to the parent in realtime, perhaps thourgh a web interface (updating every X seconds with latest position) for a nominal fee.

Hacker angle is fun... (4, Insightful)

Uksi (68751) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918371)

... but law enforcement angle is not so fun and is the real problem. Potential for misuse is huge. There's already enough bored suburban police looking to make up a budget shortfall. I just don't trust local police to remotely stall cars responsibly. Why bother pulling out and putting on the blues when they can call in and stall your car that drove 40mph into an unmarked 35mph zone? Incompetent low-wage OnStar operator disabling the wrong car by accident? They won't care. This is a serious tool--where's the due process?

I can't imagine people wanting to choose vehicles with OnStar with such a "feature."

Re:Hacker angle is fun... (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918563)

when they can call in and stall your car that drove 40mph into an unmarked 35mph zone?

      Call in? Sheesh, I think that you're not thinking technologically. How about an automated system that stalls your car when you speed. "Please pull over, and wait in the vehicle. The doors have been locked for your protection. A police officer will be along shortly."

"INFO" Fuse (5, Interesting)

ChangeOnInstall (589099) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918375)

Pulling the "INFO" fuse in my GMC Sierra renders OnStar entirely inert. The fuse is located in the underhood fuse box. I have had this fuse removed since I purchased the truck 3 years ago and have found no ill effects from its removal. Having reasonable knowledge of network security, I've never liked the idea of my truck being connected to a network.

Removing this fuse should work on 2000-2007 Chevy/GMC pickups and full size SUVs (built on the "GMT 800" platform). I believe the procedure is similar for all other GM vehicles.

Re:"INFO" Fuse (1)

b0lt (729408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918427)

So, if you remove this fuse in cars with this feature, will it prevent OnStar from disabling your vehicle, or will it prevent you from operating it?

Re:"INFO" Fuse (1)

Monkey (16966) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918675)

So, if you remove this fuse in cars with this feature, will it prevent OnStar from disabling your vehicle, or will it prevent you from operating it?

Must...resist..."In Soviet Russia..." joke.

Re:"INFO" Fuse (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918845)

It should only prevent OnStar from functioning (hence, the INFO label on the fuse). The rest of the car should continue to function normally.

Re:"INFO" Fuse (1)

ChangeOnInstall (589099) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918865)

Based on what I have read online, all the onstar components are on this circuit, but I haven't seen anyone specifically verify that all components are dead though. I know for a fact it disables onstar's ability to communicate with the PCM (powertrain control module), as you must remove this fuse when uploading new firmware to the PCM (otherwise onstar may try to talk to it during reprogramming).

Perhaps a better approach would be to physically disconnect the onstar's VCIM (vehicle control interface module) behind the glove box. Also just read that some vehicles have the remote in-dash CD changer conncted to the INFO fuse as well, so pulling the VCIM is probably the best bet.

Hack it even better (4, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918551)

Wire up a switch to the fuse and put the switch next to the big blue button, that way if you are in need of using it, you don't have crawl upside down out of you rolled over SUV, drag yourself across the ground using the bloody stumps of what used to be your legs, pry the hood open with teeth and replace the fuse you removed and then crawl back into the cab to call for help.

Put a switch there that way you can go on a heist and the cops will think "hey we can just shut him down " and then "flick" notta problemo.

Re:Hack it even better (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918835)

Wire up a switch to the fuse and put the switch next to the big blue button


Unfortunately, this also makes it easy for a thief to disable the system after they've stolen your vehicle.

And of course, it's completely useless in the event that you've locked your keys in the car.

Usually, by the time you actually need onstar, it's too late to switch it back on, and you really don't want it to be possible to switch it off at that point, either.

Re:"INFO" Fuse (5, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918685)

Pulling the "INFO" fuse in my GMC Sierra renders OnStar entirely inert.

Did your Sierra sing "Daisy, Daisy" as you did it?

Re:"INFO" Fuse (3, Insightful)

patches (141288) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918715)

Just out of curiosity, how do you know it is totally inert? Did you subscribe for a month and see if they could unlock it? What if the part of the system that unlock remotely, and possibly remotely kills the car, is a different part then the push blue button, talk to operator part.

Re:"INFO" Fuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918725)

Wow! It's a good thing all car thieves are too stupid to know how to remove a fuse! Oh wait... well, don't you feel MUCH more secure now knowing that it will take car thieves 15 seconds longer to steal your car? (Just long enough to pop the hood and remove the fuse.)

Costs vs Benefits (1)

b0lt (729408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918381)

While I can see the benefits of the system for law enforcement (stopping car chases, immobilizing stolen vehicles), do they outweigh the costs? What happens if they cut off power to the wrong vehicle, causing an accident elsewhere? Is the system easily reversible, or is it a one-way operation? Who has the authority to immobilize a vehicle? Tech support? Their managers? What happens if (when) their systems get infiltrated, by malicious users, or pranksters? There are far too many potential disasters that could happen, in my opinion, for this system to be worth it for either the consumer or OnStar.

Liability (1)

Jadware (1081293) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918431)

And then who is responsible/liable for the accident caused by the thief when the car is remotely crippled? Policeman issuing the order, company enabling the system, or the technician who actually presses the button? What it really becomes is a practically useless system that will cost you $1k when buying the car and save you $5/month on insurance.

Privacy? With OnStar? (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918453)

... the AP's writeup, which like most MSM coverage doesn't mention any privacy implications.

Privacy? With OnStar?

They can already:
  - Locate the vehicle and
  - Bug the conversations in it.

Seems to me adding the ability to halt the car has no privacy implications because there IS no privacy with OnStar (or a similar system) installed.

Republican (0, Offtopic)

Irvu (248207) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918621)

Why why would registering with any party or voting for someone who claims an interest in freedom but favors social controls matter?

Not a good idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918485)

I can't wait until someone does a remote kill of all remote vehicles (kill as in making them slow in a stop, from TFA, whatever... the vehicle is disabled regardless) during rush hour in a city... Keep repeating, and the city would starve to death because there would be no way in and out except for air traffic due to the sheer amount of immovable vehicles on the stalled roads.

Or even worse, waits and does this when people are trying to evacuate during a natural disaster. Picture the havoc if a hurricane was going to hit a coastal city like Houston, traffic piles on the roads, and GM cars get repeatedly stalled.

This is the main reason why I refuse to buy GM cars. I don't trust OnStar, period.

Another scenario:

Picture carjackers sitting near a highway (I-20 for example), someone rolls by in their new Escalade. The carjackers force it to a stop with a directional antenna, kick the owner out (or just squeeze a 9mm round or two into the guy's chest to ensure the victim stays quiet), and take the vehicle. Instant unsolvable crime. Or, if someone is into kidnapping, just wait with a pursuasion device (a sawed off shotgun is decent for this) and a directional antenna. Stop the car, jack the victim.

Re:Not a good idea (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918531)

squeeze a 9mm round or two into the guy's chest to ensure the victim stays quiet), and take the vehicle. Instant unsolvable crime.

      Ahh, but that's what the CCTV cameras are for... oh, wait!

G.M. - A company with a very specific instinct (1)

burni (930725) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918497)

.. what people don't want, and won't buy, or simply rip-off

Sorry, but are the company's leaders braindead ?
At the moment G.M. is hardly recovering from a near Chapter 11 situation, and now this precious move, I hope the land of the free will vote by boycotting this, but I think it will be
marketed as an anti-theft device, and succeed.

Reno 911! Scenario (2, Funny)

mynickwastaken (690966) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918549)

Police Officer: OnStar, OnStar, Please stop the car with the registration plates: XXXX-XXX
OnStar Operator: Roger that. Procedure Initiated. The car will start stopping in 10 Seconds

10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1

Police Car Speakers: Dear Sir, the Police was requested that your car need to be stopped. Please follow...
Police Officer: Shit

What does this have to do with PRIVACY? (4, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918555)

You could make the argument that this is a violation of certain rights (although I'm not sure which rights those would be). But PRIVACY? What the hell does the functional status of your motor vehicle have to do with your privacy?

Re:What does this have to do with PRIVACY? (1)

GizmoToy (450886) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918799)

OnStar has always had privacy issues, but I don't see how this modification makes it any worse than it was before. They can already track where the car is at all times and listen to the conversation in the car if they want to. Being able to shut the car down isn't a huge step forward from that.

Thank you Big Brother! (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918571)

Now our privacy-enhanced automobiles will be safe from non-governmental control and our guardians of morality can search our vehicles and stop them without warrants, popping the trunk lids and opening the doors so that our Police Helpers may lock us up in Reeducation Camps with less trouble!

I for one welcome our comrades and am glad that Soma is available for any problem!

This problem isn't specific to cars (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918581)

This problem isn't specific to cars. There is commercial software that will zap the contents of a hard drive if the computer is stolen. Naturally, that is controlled by the company providing the service. Hopefully, they used some good encryption on that signal. And hopefully the thief doesn't know how to disable that. But this is the limitation of remote access of any kind. I can remote into my computer - that means that someone else with the correct password can also do it.

So what? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918585)

Would you rather police shoot some teenagers tires and potentially kill him as well as innocent bystanders in a resulting accident or guide the car to controlled stop? The technology to stop cars within a policeman's sight are already there and heavily used. I am more worried about GPS-based tracking, especially since it may not be immediately obvious to the driver.

Re:So what? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918635)

Would you rather police shoot some teenagers tires and potentially kill him

OMG YES please won't someone PLEASE think of the children???

To be honest- YES. I'll take my chances.

Re:So what? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918677)

Would you rather police shoot some middle aged black guys tires and potentially kill him, or guide his car to a controlled stop? "Children" part is not key here, the problem is killing people who are simply trying to run away.

Re:So what? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918757)

"Children" part is not key here, the problem is killing people who are simply trying to run away.

      As far as I know the police don't do that NOW - unless the person is acting in a really reckless manner and/or shooting at people from the vehicle. Why would they suddenly start killing people who try to run away? Oh they will chase you, and they will spike your tires, and they'll throw you on the ground when they finally catch you. But kill you? Come on, you watch too much tv.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918827)

why dont wee just shoot the driver with a 50 caliber rifle ? that way it will come to a controlled stop and we dont need to worry about this miranda nonsense. a depleted uranium sabot thru the drivers skull and conveniently thru the engine block would also work.

This should provide for some fun times (1)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918611)

Much of the "hacking" is done by young people with an "I'll show you!" kind of attitude. Listening in on some in-car conversation isn't much fun, and unlocking doors provides no feedback. But if you could stall the cars - now we're getting into "watch me do this" territory.

This would elevate the DOS attack to a new level. Download the script, run it, see the story on tonight's news. Great fun...

Wonderful... (3, Interesting)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918615)

So what happens 10 years from now when everyone has it in their vehicle and some hacker figures out a way to stall all the cars in LA? Imagine someone being able to control all the vehicles in the USA(or maybe the world!). This would be a very useful tool for terrorists. I promise I won't be running out to buy a car with OnStar!

Assuming that a terrorist is able to stop all the cars in the USA in one nice swoop, does the vehicle automatically re-enable after 30 seconds? What kind of limitations are there on the OnStar's ability to control the vehicle after it has been disabled? Does the care auto re-enable after so much time and can't be disabled again until it's 'reset' locally?

I can't even begin to imagine all of the bad things that can go wrong with this setup. This is yet another reason why the futuristic shows that show everthing 'connected' is bad for us.

The good ol knock on MSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20918649)

as oppose to internet media? Exaggerated headline that has nothing to do with the story. The same tired cliches (political, environmental, The fellating of Apple, etc etc). If the past 3 months worth of headlines that appear on Digg, Reddit are any indication of something that's better than MSM, I'll pass.

2007:computer virus halts information superhighway (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918657)

2017:computer virus halts actual highway

Only on GM products? (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918671)

How would you distinguish a remote disable from a normal breakdown?

Re:Only on GM products? (1)

Dr Caleb (121505) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918777)

"How would you distinguish a remote disable from a normal breakdown?"

The amount of smoke emitted, and the number of people trying to get out by breaking the windows.

I BLAME O.J. (3, Funny)

quonsar (61695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918703)

Damn that White Bronco!

American Cars Stall Themselves (1)

SoyChemist (1015349) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918719)

This would be alarming if I did not expect them to stall randomly anyway.

Where's the API? (1)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918797)

"Here is the AP's writeup"

Damn. Did anybody else read that as "API writeup?"

I was ready to start coding since they were nice enough to document it and everything. Or so I thought for a blessed moment. :)

MADD's new tool (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918837)

I can guarantee you this has the potential to not only be misused just by law enforcement, but as a political agenda by MADD to force the installation of 'ON STAR' to fight the 'carnage on the highways'. ON STAR has 'some' advantages (stopping high speed chases, car jacking, drunk driving), but there are greatly out weighed by it's disadvantages.

Unconstitutional! (1)

madsheep (984404) | more than 6 years ago | (#20918847)

LOL.. what a tag this story has -- "unconstituational." Last time I checked the constitution didn't outlaw knowingly purchasing a vehicle with an additional feature that you pay for that has capabilities to disable your car if law enforcement gets involved. Then again I haven't read it over in a while, I could be wrong.
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