DOWN WITH POWER
Narrated by talk show host, Brian Wilson, “Down With Power” a Libertarian
Manifesto, by L. Neil Smith now downloadable as an audiobook!
L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 950, November 26, 2017

You don’t want to be trapped
between the force of nature and the
doubling down of human stupidity.

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About Those Self-Driving Cars.…
by Mike Blessing
mikewb1971@protonmail.com

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

One question for those reading this —

How many of you remember this commercial from OnStar that aired a few years ago?

There’s plenty more where that came from —

YouTube search: onstar stolen vehicle slowdown

YouTube search: onstar stolen vehicle slowdown commercial

I’m sure that when your car gets stolen or jacked away from you, this sort of thing sounds fantastic.

With that in mind, there is a downside to giving law enforcement this sort of access.

What happens when they have a warrant out for you, for whatever reason (drugs, terrorism, securities, unpaid taxes or fines, bench warrant, use your imagination here)?

If your car has one of these tracking systems built into it, they can go to the dealer, show their paperwork to whoever is working at the service desk, and not only demand a location for your vehicle, but real-time tracking information about it, and have the dealer rep shut it down when they need it shut down.

If you happen to be driving down the road when they give that order and your vehicle "loses" power, it will be your problem, not theirs.

There are ways around this sort of thing — white-hat hackers to the rescue here:

How to disable Onstar without losing bluetooth and without setting error codes

  1. Remove Onstar Module from vehicle.

  2. Remove the 6 T10 screws from the bottom of the Onstar Module.

  3. Pull up on the main board to separate it from the antenna board.

  4. Remove the Male/Male connector that connects the main board to the antenna board.

  5. Drop the main board back in without the Male/Male connector and reinstall the screws.

  6. Reinstall the Onstar Module in the vehicle and enjoy!

No error codes and no Onstar connectivity.

So when self-driving cars and trucks are mass-produced and in use by the general population, what can we expect?

I won’t be surprised if Congress mandates that the manufacturers include a backdoor to the cars’ operating system for law enforcement use. That way when the cops have a warrant for you, they don’t need to swarm ("stack", in SWAT element parlance) up at your front door and conduct a legalized home invasion[1], they can just hack your car to deliver you to the local station, and lock you inside upon arrival.

And of course, the how-to on that will never, ever get out to the criminal element.

Is there a solution to this?

Yes — insist that you have control over who has access to your vehicle’s operating system and connectivity, so that anyone wanting this level of remote control has to have your explicit, knowing sign-off beforehand.

Or disconnect your car’s autonomous mode, unless that becomes impractical or de facto illegal[2].

Are you going to have that level of control with outfits like OnStar?

And then there’s the issue of operating system vulnerabilities. What sorts of holes will be exploitable by third parties, officially-sanctioned or freelancers?

At least with a cell phone, you can block the signal when you want by putting the phone into a plastic bag, then wrapping the bag with aluminum foil (a Faraday cage). I’m not sure how that would work with a car.

In the mean time, I recommend getting friendly with your local hacker space, 2600 meetup[3], or Linux User Group [LUG].

 

NOTES

  1. Compare and contrast SWAT “dynamic entry” techniques versus home invasions conducted by the criminal element

  2. I refer to the self-driving cars in Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End

  3. As of September 2017: Meetup pages / sites, Meetup list

Copyright © 2017 Mike Blessing. All rights reserved.

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