VW is reportedly suing the University of Birmingham, England, because the car manufacturer wants to stop the publication of an academic paper that reveals how researchers were able to bypass and hack sophisticated anti-theft systems.
VW has pursued legal action to prevent the university publishing details of the work, reasoning that publicising flaws would be “highly damaging” and may “facilitate theft of cars”.
Birmingham University has said it will “defer publication” of the findings because of an interim injunction issued by the High Court in June, 2013. Exactly how long for is unknown. The findings were to be released in August.
“I recognise the high value of academic free speech, but there is another high value, the security of millions of Volkswagen cars,” High Court Justice Colin Birss said, noting that a security breach would affect many cars under the VW flag including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche.
The paper outlines how the algorithm designed to ensure only the correct key works with a car can be reverse-engineered. In other words, a hacker with the right equipment and knowledge of the process could work out a car’s immobiliser code and then easily gain access to it.
While the High Court judge did sympathise with the university researchers, he made it clear public security is also a key concern.
It’s not clear how Volkswagen learned of the academic paper.
Hacking seems to be a hot topic at the moment. Hackers were able to take control of a Toyota Prius using a MacBook. Naturally, Toyota was less than pleased.