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Hardware Hacking Privacy Build

Stalling Cars Via OnStar 737

Posted by kdawson
from the let-the-hacking-begin dept.
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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Stalling Cars Via OnStar

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:04PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by t0xic@ (156547)
      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cicho (45472) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:45PM (#20918737) Homepage
        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.
        • by stilwebm (129567) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:19PM (#20919063)
          Enter the classic car.

          Sure, the 1971 Plymouth RoadRunner my friend drives gets only about 10 miles to the gallon on a good day, the 383cid engine is mechanical or electromechanical in every part. The only transistors in this carburetor fed monster are in the factory AM/FM radio. Don't waste time installing a remote kill system on a car in which cruise control consists of placing an object (optional) under the gas pedal and mashing it down.

          Now I just hope they don't ban lead substitute fuel additives before he replaces his valve seats...
          • Re:Not only that (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @01:33AM (#20923121) Homepage

            Enter the classic car.
            Agreed 110%! My car's a good 18 years newer than your friend's Plymouth, and it does have some transistors in a box under the bonnet for the EFI and electronic ignition, but when it comes down to it, it's still electromechanical, not electronic. The only cars I've driven other than it have been newish (Y2k+ models) that have been choc full of electronics and friendly helpful features like the retarded 'assisted braking' where under certain conditions the car craps its dacks and ups the sensitivity of the brake pedal, ending in you coming to a screeching halt the moment you try and heel+toe a gearshift. The primary rule that I drive by is that there's only one driver. I don't care if it's me, someone else, or the car itself, but if it's me, then no way in hell will I put up with the car trying to guess what I meant. Modern electronics can go f**k themselves until they get to the point that I really *can* put on the cruise control and hop in the back seat for a nap.
        • Re:Not only that (Score:5, Insightful)

          by KKlaus (1012919) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:57PM (#20921321)
          You're drawing an incorrect parallel to what has been happening with health insurance, and car owners without this feature will be fine. While improvements in the abilities of health insurance companies to predict who is going to get sick have started to make it near impossible for certain people to get health insurance, that's only because those people are literally UNPROFITABLE (as in taking a loss) for the insurance companies. The word unprofitable there is the key though.

          Yes, car owners without this feature may be more subject to successful thefts, and therefore LESS profitable than their counterparts with the service, but unlike someone who just found out they have terminal cancer and is looking to get insurance, they are still SOMEWHAT profitable, just less. I assume that they are still profitable, because clearly no one has this service now, yet auto insurers are making money.

          So anyhow, whereas some people can't get health insurance because insurers know that they are far too likely to take a big loss on them, people will have an easy time getting auto insurance without this feature because auto insurers will still be able to make money off of them. People without the feature may have to pay more for that insurance, and they can independently decide whether that's what they want to do, but they'll certainly be able to find it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GreyPoopon (411036)

        Once it is "assumed" you have one then it becomes worth it for people to hack it.

        And then there will be a sizable market for services to disable the system....
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by SEWilco (27983)
          And a friendly female voice announces "You are being kidnapped. Please remain calm."
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:13PM (#20918363) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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.
        • by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:42PM (#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.
        • by hazem (472289) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:16PM (#20920193) Journal
          I know there is this whole list of logical fallacies and I even agree with a lot of them. But I don't put as much stock in dismissing an argument simply because it's a "slippery slope" argument.

          I say this because I, myself, have implemented plans where this was exactly the method of getting something done. First get a little feature or control, then use that as wedge to get the full feature or full control I really want. It's not so unusual as you can often hear other people making the same strategic plans for their agenda.

          Hell, it's even a common tactic for getting sex. One usually doesn't just rip off his clothes and try to copulate with the nearby female. Success rates are often higher if you're more strategic in your approach. Set the mood; nice dinner and wine; soft lights. Touching and so on... and now I'm sounding like either a Barry White album or that skit from Meaning of Life ("You don't have to go leaping straight for the clitoris like a bull at a gate."). In any case, you often need to guide her down that slippery slope...

          Couple that with the very strong tendency of governments (or any organization with power) to stay in power and magnify that power, it's very easy to see that once there is the capability to do something desirable that those in power would make it mandatory to have that capability.

          There are many many examples of this and frankly it pretty much invalidates the claim in arguments that a "slippery slope is a logical fallacy". It might not stand up in the theory of pure logic but it certainly is valid in the practice of real life.
      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:28PM (#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.
        • by crabpeople (720852) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:09PM (#20918991) Journal
          Hes not arguing that tasers are more deadly than a gun, hes arguing that when tasers were first released they were positioned as an alternative to deadly force - as in used in the same situation a gun would be used. In practice, we see them used as a quick effortless way to subdue someone for whatever reason, be they violent or nonviolent. Its not about the infrequent deaths, its about the perception by law enforcement that taser use is routine.

          As long as its not illegal to completely disable these devices I wouldn't have a problem with it in my car, but its a very slippery slope as you alluded to with the seatbelt. The government could simply make it illegal to disable such a system, and next thing you know police are using it to disable cars with offensive bumper stickers (say a darwin fish in the southern USA? chevy loyal cops disabling fords? or just giving a cop an eye he doesnt like).

          Police need far less powers not more. It is after all, just a car, and insurance will cover the damages if any. The GPS system and the constant data archiving of your and your routes is a bit more scary than remote disable imho. I would never buy a car that "phoned home" to the manufacturers database with info about where I am at all times.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by timmarhy (659436)
            You people screech about tasers being over used, but i'm yet to see a single video of a cop using a taser on someone who didn't deserve it.

            they aren't rounding up defensless fluffy bunnies you know. cops deal with people who would kill or maime them in the blink of an eye, so i wouldn't hesitate to tase someone who i thought was going to turn violent on me either. if anything i've seen the vast majority of cops display AMAZING patience.

            What i HAVE seen though is the misuse of tasers by people who ARE NOT

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mosch (204)
              You people screech about tasers being over used, but i'm yet to see a single video of a cop using a taser on someone who didn't deserve it.

              Given recent, well-publicized events, I guess your definition of "deserves it" is anybody who annoys you. Right, bro?

              There are a few options here. You're either very poorly informed, a troll or a big-government fascist. Which is it?
            • by Anonamused Cow-herd (614126) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:30PM (#20920997)

              i'm yet to see a single video of a cop using a taser on someone who didn't deserve it.


              You thought the John Kerry kid deserved it? If that situation isn't enough, you should really watch more SPIKE TV or Court TV -- with Sheriff John Bunnell, or whatever his name is. I saw a show entitled something like "COPS - TAZED AND CONFUSED" where they showed consecutive clips of cops using tazers in hilarious situations.

              In one, here was the situation -- cop is following a pickup (somewhere in the rural western US). He follows the guy into a store parking lot, then puts on his flashers. Mind you, he has no information that this guy is shady in any way shape or form (though he was black) -- or Sheriff John certainly would have informed us, as he always does. So the guy I don't think even notices the cop at first, and starts to open his door. The cop draws his tazer and starts yelling at him like crazy, so much that I could barely make out what he was saying. He starts telling the guy how to step away from the truck and lie down face down on the ground. Again -- this guy did nothing wrong that the cop knew!

              So the guy has his hands up (as ordered), and is ordered to get on the ground face down. So he starts putting his hands down to get down on the ground (as a somewhat fatter individual). The cop flips out (from like 20 feet away) and screams to continue putting his hands in the air, although he only moved them down like 6 inches as he was trying to go to his knees. The guy is scared by the scream, and puts his hands up, but kinda jumps up from his half-kneel, then starts trying to go back down. But he forgets not to lock his arms straight above his head. Cue announcer: "this officer had no choice but to subdue the suspect. Next time he thinks about not following a cop's orders, he'll remember THAT 50,000 volts!"

              Turns out, the guy had some warrant for trespassing or something 6 months prior, but the cop clearly didn't know that until he ran his ID. I couldn't believe it -- and this is the "valor" that they show on national TV! Imagine the "normal" usages!
            • by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:35PM (#20921051)
              I was going to mod in the thread, but had to post a response to this.

              This is video of Georgia cops tasering a man to death.

              The guy was having a problem with his epilepsy medication, so his wife called the cops for help. They proceeded to medicate him - first with billy clubs, then with tasers - repeatedly.

              Because the wife also called the FBI afterwards, the local DA got pissy and softballed the case before the grand jury, which didn't even bother to watch this video before finding the police blameless.

              The man's last words?

              "Don't kill me."

              Here's the link to the video [google.com]

              The link to the (minimal) media coverage [11alive.com]

              And the link to the discussion over at Digg [digg.com]

              When you're the guy in this video, then you can whine about people "screeching about tasers being overused."



              P.S. When one's POV is that everyone is a person "who would kill or maime them in the blink of an eye," then naturally one "wouldn't hesitate to tase someone who i thought was going to turn violent on me."

              But that's not seeing the truth of each situation, that's being caught in one's own psychosis and fear.

              (Since consciousness is self-similar, of course we'll see this same behavior at the level of the person (in this case the poster, it seems, and the police) as well as the level of the nation (for example, our war in Iraq) ).

              We don't get to hurt or kill other people just because we're afraid.

              And the solution isn't to keep hurting or killing people until we're not afraid. Since the fear is an internal condition, and one that blinds us to the external reality, no amount of external violence and killing will ever stop it.

              The solution is to stop, admit that we're afraid, breathe, and then notice we're still OK. And that takes a lot more balls than just beating or shooting or tasering or bombing everything that scares us.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by KKlaus (1012919)
              The video of that ID-less kid refusing to leave the library at UCLA was pretty bad. And those WERE definitely cops. Really the problem with the taser is nothing to do with its lethality, it's simply that some cops haven't been trained that the taser is not a good method of difusing a situation and preventing a scene. In fact, because it hurts like a bitch and tends to make people scream, it's good at doing pretty much the opposite.

              So you can argue about whether that guy at the recent John Kerry rally des
          • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @07:04PM (#20919515) Journal

            Hes not arguing that tasers are more deadly than a gun, hes arguing that when tasers were first released they were positioned as an alternative to deadly force - as in used in the same situation a gun would be used. In practice, we see them used as a quick effortless way to subdue someone for whatever reason, be they violent or nonviolent

            Thank you! I made this same point back in the discussion about the "don't tase me bro!" kid. The problem is tasers isn't the 1 person out of 10,000,000 that's going to die as a result of being tased. The problem is that the taser has lowered the standard of when to use force.

            Forgot about the gun v. taser debate. Would a cop have been willing to use his nightstick on that kid? Yes, he was being a jerk and didn't go prone for them. But would they really have whipped out nightsticks and used them? Not likely. The image of four cops beating up a single college kid with nightsticks wouldn't play very well, now would it?

            Ah! But the taser! We can use the taser. It's lowered the standard for when force can be used. And that's a bad thing, imho.

            Another taser story that sticks out in my mind was a judge out in California ordering his court officers to tase a defendant who refused to stop speaking when ordered to. Yeah, throw him back in jail for contempt of court, but TASE someone for speaking? Not even screaming and yelling. Speaking! That's bullshit. If I walk up to Dick Cheney and tell him to go "fuck yourself" in a normal tone of voice is that really grounds for his USSS guards to tase you?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by c6gunner (950153)

              The problem is that the taser has lowered the standard of when to use force.
              No, it's only changes the type of force used. Previous to the taser, we would have used pressure points, choke holds, fists, and batons - all of which can be just as dangerous as a taser, if not more so.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by KKlaus (1012919)
              The problem is people don't understand that the taser is actually a really crappy method of restoring order or difusing a public disturbance. Getting tased makes people go crazy, and go "Ouch" really loudly. But, it's not scary in the same way a big stick is, so they aren't motivated in the same way to be quiet. So the cops tase them again, and then again (and maybe again) until they are finally quiet. Meanwhile we've had a pretty long period of the person being tased screaming and yelling for the cops
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vertinox (846076)
          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 m
        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:23PM (#20919099)
          Sigh... looks like you're the Slashdot voice of "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

          Couple of (not so) minor quibbles:
          - There is a massive difference between passive safety features and active features activated by someone other than the driver of the car (and yes, it will be hacked - same way that all remote locks to date have been hacked)
          - Tasers did not simply replace guns as options for subduing suspects. They took over as option for the range of situations that sit between "suspect can be subdued by talking" and "suspect has a gun". As such, it de-escalated some situations, but escalated a whole other set of situations. So yes, they are actually more dangerous than some of the options it replaced. The end-effect is that your statistical harmlessness (seriously, only someone in the neo-con flavored spook business talks like that) causes harm in situation where no harm was done before.
          - It is irrelevant that only 1% of the PATRIOT ACT is controversial. What is relevant is the impact that that 1% can have on 99% of the population.

          It is interesting that all examples that you have given so far merely reinforce my suspicion that you have an unnaturally rose-tinted vision of the government and government employees - particularly law-enforcement.

          Government might be not all sinister, but I'll be damned before I let some asshole cop ruin my day because he (far more likely than she) thinks that I'm not stopping fast enough in traffic. I'm astounded that you fail to grasp the cost a few bad calls can make, and that you equate passive safety features with remotely activated loss of control.

          Seriously, stay the fuck out of my life. You have no concept of privacy, no concept of government abuse, no concept of the cost and benefit of liberty, and absolutely no idea that the government is there to serve me, not the other way around. And you're about 30 years behind in your analysis of the China threat. Not that I expect anything else from Military intelligence schools.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:23PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DogsBollocks (806307)
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by R2.0 (532027)
      "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 mos
      • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:44PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tacocat (527354)

          You can also call OnStar and ask that you have your unit disabled. Just as effective but it does more to retain your vehicles resale value. Once disabled, it won't work until you call back into OnStar and ask for them to reactivate the unit.

          As for removing the GPS antenna, that was dumb. The only thing the GPS it tied into is the OnStar unit and once that's disabled, there's nothing else to do.

          It just leaves a more passive means of removing the functionality of OnStar without wrapping foil around your h

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:41PM (#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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tacocat (527354)

        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.

        Not quite there... It's on when you purchase the vehicle. But if you call and request that it be disabled then it is physically disabled and cannot be remotely enabled.

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#20918823) Journal
      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).
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:55PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      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 res

    • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1.twmi@rr@com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @07:17PM (#20919675)

      OK, just to clear up a few things because I can. Why, because I work there.

      • It does not apply the brakes, it whacks the engines software modules (in a non-destructive, non-damaging way) to basically screw up the fuel/air/combustion mix rendering your 200 HP engine weak.
      • You really can't get the local police to call in to OnStar to screw with these cars. They have been trying to do that for a decade and there is not ONE incident where they have successfully gotten OnStar to interfer with a vehicle without the permission and knowledge of the owner. So STFU about that one you paranoid aluminum jock strap wearing dweebs.
      • Hacking OnStar is going to be about as easy has hacking SSH using a public private key authentication system. Good luck. There are so many hurdles go get through for a single car you would be far better off hacking it with a large rock.
      • Normally I am pretty damn critical about big brother. But in this case I have to argue that they have a lot of the paranoid issues covered. The new changes in privacy are such that it's pretty difficult to figure out anything about a given vehicle. You have to really know the system, design, protocols, and transmission methods to get anything out of it. There are maybe 4 people who might be able to do that.

      There seems to be a lot of Oh My God!! It's Big Brother!! going on around on this one. But seeing as I'm one of the system engineers who has worked on this stuff for most of OnStars life... Get over yourself and go worry about something more problematic like DMCA...

  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:05PM (#20918241) Journal
    Now along with hardened thugs, we'll have half of the /. community hijacking cars!
  • California History (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:07PM (#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.
    • by mh1997 (1065630) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:25PM (#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.

  • Slippery Slope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:08PM (#20918289) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:31PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:12PM (#20919021) Homepage

        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.


        Then you'd agree that we should ban skydiving, rock climbing, bull riding, car racing, and anything else you might have to "fund your care for 30 years".

        What makes you think people having health care gives you the right to start controlling what they do, simply because you also pay for health care? Not wearing a seatbelt is pretty dumb, or at best self destructive. But why don't people have the right to be dumb or self destructive?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          But why don't people have the right to be dumb or self destructive?

          You answered your own question already. People don't have the right to be dumb and self destructive when the cost of those actions is shared by everyone (or anyone) else. If you want to act dumb and self destuctive, do so in a way that is a cost only to you.

          For example, go buy a speed boat and play chicken with iceburgs in international waters - you won't hear much complaining then. But roads were paid for and are maintained by everyone's tax money; no single person has the right to abuse them (on the o

          • Re:Slippery Slope (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:27PM (#20919147)

            You answered your own question already. People don't have the right to be dumb and self destructive when the cost of those actions is shared by everyone (or anyone) else. If you want to act dumb and self destuctive, do so in a way that is a cost only to you.


            It seems then, that in a free society the solution shouldn't be to ban said behaviors, but to eliminate the entitlement to the services which "cost" in those situations.

            The parent poster asked you:

            "What makes you think people having health care gives you the right to start controlling what they do, simply because you also pay for health care?" ...and your answer is essentially "yes, I have the right because I pay for their health care"?

            I can't think of a nice way to say this: "Fuck you. I don't want you to tell me what to do. I'd rather you take your universal health care and shove it up your ass. That way I get to keep my freedom."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dangitman (862676)

          But why don't people have the right to be dumb or self destructive?

          It's not a matter of being self-destructive. If not wearing a seatbelt only affected the non-seatbelt-wearer, then that would be fine. But an unrestrained person in an accident becomes a projectile, and can kill and injure other people when they get thrown.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by porpnorber (851345)

          What makes you think people having health care gives you the right to start controlling what they do, simply because you also pay for health care? Not wearing a seatbelt is pretty dumb, or at best self destructive. But why don't people have the right to be dumb or self destructive?

          Actually, the analysis of this is pretty subtle. It's to do with the fact that we have partial but not uniform or total socialism. If we had a system that did not make use of legacy structures (such as employers and the family) i

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KKlaus (1012919)
          You really don't see the difference? First off, in a bottom line utilitarian sort of sense, the things you listed don't injure nearly enough people for society to get in a fuss about it. Contrast that with the huge number of people that get killed and injured in auto accidents, and I think it may be obvious why society cares about one and not the other. But a better reason is that some risks just seem more reasonable than others. Yes, people get hurt climbing large rocks, but at least it's enjoyable eno
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        People screw over other people, whether knowingly or unknowingly, all the time. You can cost someone far more money than you would ever pay out of your tax dollars to support a coma patient simply by getting into a car accident and causing a traffic jam while he's on his way to a job interview.

        The minute you start to use "I don't want to support your stupidity" as an argument you are supporting restricting the freedoms of others solely for your convenience. And then all kinds of ethical and philosophical qu
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sabt-pestnu (967671)
        > 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.

        You might consider: you aren't doing the funding. The insurance company is. Or, more likely, isn't, if it's quite so catastrophic as all that. Discounting, of course, the possibility of death instead of injury.

        Another argument used by the "pro-motorcycle helmet lobby" is "think of the poor emergency room workers", and "think of the poor emplo
  • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:11PM (#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.

  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:13PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572)

      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tempest69 (572798)
        That's why you use the GPS function first. Plus they arent stranded, just slow as sin..
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pclminion (145572)

          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?

  • by Uksi (68751) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:14PM (#20918371) Homepage
    ... 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."
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:29PM (#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."
    • by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:37PM (#20919219) Homepage
      Police will stop your car ... as a reason to stop your car. The police will say, "We didn't do it. Maybe it was some hacker. Maybe you were just stoned and driving in a confused way. Of course once you pulled over, we needed to stop and see what the problem was. Since you appeared disoriented, even disturbed, we needed to search your car and sample your breath. You have the right to an attorney. We've done everything by the book, and within the Constitution."

      Seriously, here in Vermont the police stop out-of-state cars for having fuzzy dice hanging - there's a unique law here making anything hanging from your rear-view mirror illegal. But they don't care about the fuzzy dice. They just want to check you over to see if they can bust you for something more serious. Yet they can't just pull you over with not violation apparent. Being able to stall your car at will can provide them with a real convenient violation - apparently erratic driving, driving too slow for safety on the freeway, improperly maintained equipment, whatever.
  • "INFO" Fuse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChangeOnInstall (589099) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:15PM (#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.
    • by jameskojiro (705701) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:28PM (#20918551) Journal
      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.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:40PM (#20918685) Homepage
      Pulling the "INFO" fuse in my GMC Sierra renders OnStar entirely inert.

      Did your Sierra sing "Daisy, Daisy" as you did it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by patches (141288)
      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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sponge Bath (413667)

      I've never liked the idea of my truck being connected to a network.

      I read something similar on Commander Adama's automotive tips blog.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oliphaunt (124016)
      Dear ChangeOnInstall,

      This letter is to inform you that your post #20918375 may violate Section 1201 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Please delete your post, go out into your garage, replace the fuse, and weld your hood shut to prevent any repeat occurances.

      We reserve the right to sue you for damages or put you in jail if you ever tell anyone about this letter.

      Thanks for being a GM OnStar customer!
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:20PM (#20918453) Journal
    ... 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.
  • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:28PM (#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?
  • Wonderful... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cyberjock1980 (1131059) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:32PM (#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.
  • by quonsar (61695) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:41PM (#20918703) Homepage
    Damn that White Bronco!
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:32PM (#20919185) Homepage

    LoJack, which has a very good track record in stolen car recovery, is better designed from a privacy standpoint. LoJack hides a box somewhere in the car. It normally doesn't transmit anything. The box just listens to a subcarrier on broadcast stations for a signal that tells the LoJack boxes to turn on. When the box turns on, it starts sending out a signal, which suitably equipped police cars can pick up and home in on by radio direction finding.

    It's reasonably easy to monitor LoJack for abuse. The broadcast control signal can be listened to by anybody, and the signal from a LoJack box isn't a much of a secret either. When it's triggered, every police car with LoJack gear in range lights up, so there's considerable visibility of its use. Southern California has about 500 LoJack activations a month. [wsati.org] LAPD has their helicopters equipped with LoJack receivers, so stealing a LoJack-equipped car is likely to result in being spotlighted from the air within minutes.

  • Seriously.... does the American auto industry have an f----ing death wish?

    Their cars are expensive, inefficient, underpowered, and poorly-made compared to the competition. And now they spy on you....

    Why can't Detroit wake up in time to save its sorry ass? I hate to say it, but I think there's a *very* real chance of seeing both GM and Ford going belly-up in my lifetime. Hopefully whatever comes along (if anything) to replace them will be a bit more innovative.

    And please don't take this as flamebait, but when you've lost your edge and are hemorrhaging cash and customers, the *last* thing a company wants to do is to alienate their remaining customers even further.
    • Their cars are expensive, inefficient, underpowered, and poorly-made compared to the competition.

      That's not entirely true, especially on the quality portion. Take a look at the JD Power 2007 Brand Quality Ratings [jdpower.com]. Surprisingly, Lincoln did better than BMW, and Ford and GM are in the middle of the pack.

      Interestingly enough, the words you spat out in the above quote seem to be some sort of weird side effect of some proto-viral marketing that came about in the early 90s.
  • by laing (303349) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:11PM (#20921481)
    GM has its problems. I'll never own another GM product. I think their biggest issue is that they do not learn from their mistakes. If the design engineers screw up and produce a product that fails repeatedly, they never hear about it. There's no feedback mechanisim between the service departments and the engineering team. This is the primary difference between them and their Japanese competitors.

    All of that aside, this step crosses the line. What they have implemented here is a means to remotely take control of the car from the driver. Think about that for a minute. They've decided that an "override" function should exist which would superceed the judgement and will of the pilot of the vehicle. This is the same kind of reasoning that caused the Airbus A320 crash at the Habsheim air show in 1988. The computer overrode the pilots attempts to climb and crashed the aircraft, killing many.

    If I ever own a vehicle with such technology installed, the first thing I'll do before driving it will be to completely disable it.

    --
    This space for rent
  • What if ONStar screws up and bricks your car while doing 75 on the freeway?
    You die and potentially so do more people in the resulting crash.

    This technology should deter people from buying these cars and GM will die off finally.

    They make shit cars anyway.

    I'll take a honda or subaru or mitsubishi any day of the week over anything made by GM.
  • In Cop Cars? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:19PM (#20922181) Homepage Journal
    Will all cop cars have this crackable feature?

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