Mar 2019

Tech: Three tasty stories from the past three months

Written by Paul Maher

Tech: Three tasty stories from the past three months

News moves faster in tech. But some stories run and run, both in the papers and in your mind. These three are our most compelling stories from the last 90 days. The first affects many of us: hackers are coming for our cars and it’s easier for them now than ever before. Next we have two clashes of the titans with both Huawei and the US government and Spotify and Apple going toe-to-toe; one with lawsuits and one with words.

Why hitchhike when you can hack?

This story began in January when it was discovered Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan produced many of the 237 models of cars with keyless entry found in a study to be easily hacked via a Relay Attack. This is not a case of being hacked as in, by a nation state with a team of people in a command centre. No, these are career crimonals using your own key fob to hack your car in a matter of minutes. Ayone with a search engine, £10 in their pocket and an Amazon account can be the proud new driver of your vehicle. Ford alone has at least ten models vulnerable to attack, as their own tests confirmed.
It was revealed aftermarket car alarms in as many as three million cars and advertised as ‘unhackable’ have been found to be, yep — very much hackable. Bad actors are able to reset a user’s password without any authentication. Once in the account, the car’s location in real time is available to help you track it down. At this point, the car can be locked and unlocked, started and stopped, all on command. In other words, a car can be completely taken out of its owner’s control and attempt a land speed record on the motorway before the drivers any the wiser. Less Autonomous Driving and more plain Taking and Driving Away.

Huawei or the highway?

Huawei’s year didn’t start well when its phone division was called out by YouTube tech guru Marques Brownlee for tweeting New Year resolutions from an iPhone instead of, you know…a Huawei phone? Its year hasn’t gotten any easier. The US Government has restricted federal agencies from purchasing any Huawei kit. Doubling down on this policy, the US has now ‘lobbied’ other countries, read as ‘used sentences ending in…. or else’, to persuade their neighbours to hold off on Huawei products too. The latest country lobbied was Germany, which has been threatened with losing access to US intelligence if it does a Fleetwood Mac and goes its own way.

Going on the offensive, Huawei is now suing the US Government over its lack of explanation for this restriction in sales. Huawei’s current chairman says: “The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products. We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort.”

The lawsuit may well compel the US to give evidence and push Huawei into opening itself up to international scrutiny, watch this space…

Tech Titan on Titan
Spotify’s Daniel Ek is mad as hell at Apple and he’s not going to take it anymore. You know he’s upset because there’s a microsite: Time to Play Fair. Ek has also put the complaint before the European Commissioner) Yes, Spotify has had it up to here – imagine I’m holding my hand really high – with Tim ‘Apple’ Cook and what Spotify says is his price-gouging app store. Spotify has made several claims including that Apple’s 30% levy on in-app digital purchases is unfair and its App Store mechanisms are blocking them from offering their customers deals and app enhancements.

How true are these claims? Well, it’s up for debate but Apple of course completely refutes any wrongdoing. Unusually, Apple has even hit back directly, publishing a press release to address each of Spotify’s points, the latter quickly responding saying Apple is a ‘monopolist’. Will these two household tech names make up or will the name-calling escalate further? It’s safe to say this will not be ending any time soon either way.

Keep your eyes open
In summary, if someone tells you a car is unhackable, you have an unsinkable ship to sell them. If a government won’t buy your goods, take them to court, and if a company is putting the screws on you, make a microsite. All we know for sure is news in tech is breaking every day so stay on the lookout because you never know what might be about to erupt.

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