Millions hit in Drupal hack attack

Hands on keyboardMillions of sites are managed and updated using Drupal

Up to 12 million websites may have been compromised by attackers who took advantage of a bug in the widely used Drupal software.

The sites use Drupal to manage web content and images, text and video.

Drupal has issued a security warning saying users who did not apply a patch for a recently discovered bug should “assume” they have been hacked.

It said automated attacks took advantage of the bug and can let attackers take control of a site.

‘Shocking’ statement

In its “highly critical” announcement, Drupal’s security team said anyone who did not take action within seven hours of the bug being discovered on 15 October should “should proceed under the assumption” that their site was compromised.

Anyone who had not yet updated should do so immediately, it warned.

However, the team added, simply applying this update might not remove any back doors that attackers have managed to insert after they got access. Sites should begin investigations to see if attackers had got away with data, said the warning.

“Attackers may have copied all data out of your site and could use it maliciously,” said the notice. “There may be no trace of the attack.” It also provided a link to advice that would help sites recover from being compromised.

Mark Stockley, an analyst at security firm Sophos, said the warning was “shocking”.

The bug in version 7 of the Drupal software put attackers in a privileged position, he wrote. Their access could be used to take control of a server or seed a site with malware to trap visitors, he said.

He estimated that up to 5.1% of the billion or so sites on the web use Drupal 7 to manage their content, meaning the number of sites needing patching could be as high as 12 million.

Drupal should no longer rely on users to apply patches, said Mr Stockley.

“Many site owners will never have received the announcement and many that did will have been asleep,” he said. “What Drupal badly needs but doesn’t have is an automatic updater that rolls out security updates by default.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29846539#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Pirate Bay founder gets jail term

Gottfrid Warg in 2009

Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Warg has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for hacking into computers and illegally downloading files.

He and a co-defendant were convicted of breaking into computers owned by technology services giant CSC by a Danish court.

They downloaded police and social security files from the computers.

Prosecutors said it was the “largest hacking case to date”.

Soon after the sentence was announced, lawyers representing Mr Warg said they would launch an appeal.

Warg’s accomplice was given a six-month jail sentence but walked free from the court, having served 17 months in pre-trial detention.

The initial hack attack took place in February 2012 and gave the pair access to the sensitive information, including social security numbers and police records, for about six months.

Defence lawyers said that, although the hack attacks were carried out using a computer owned by Warg, he was not the person that used it to steal the files.

Instead, they said, an unnamed hacker took over this machine and used it to carry out the attacks. Warg has declined to name this other hacker.

After considering evidence, the judge and jury in the case said it was “unlikely” that other people were responsible.

The court’s decision is the third to go against Warg in the last five years.

He was deported from Cambodia in September 2013 to Sweden where he served a jail term for copyright theft because of his involvement with the Pirate Bay file-sharing site.

In a separate trial in 2013, Warg was sentenced to two years in a Swedish jail for hacking into a bank’s computers. This sentence was reduced to one year on appeal.

In that trial, Warg and accomplice were found guilty of breaking into the computer systems of computer services firm Logica, which was doing work for Sweden’s tax office and a bank. On that occasion his accomplice was put on probation.

In late November 2013 he was deported to Denmark to face charges in the CSC hacking cases.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29832318#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Pirate Bay founder faces jail term

Gottfrid Warg in 2009

Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Warg has been found guilty of hacking into computers and illegally downloading files in Denmark.

The Danish court found Mr Warg and his co-defendant guilty of breaking into computers owned by technology services giant CSC.

Once they won access to the computers, the pair downloaded police and social security files.

Mr Warg will be sentenced on 31 October and could face six years in jail.

His accomplice walked free from the court on 30 October as he had served 17 months in pre-trial detention.

The initial hack attack took place in February 2012 and gave the pair access to the sensitive information for about six months.

Defence lawyers said although the hack attacks were carried out using a computer owned by Mr Warg, he was not the person that used it to steal the files. Instead, they said, an unnamed hacker took over this machine and used it to carry out the attacks. Mr Warg has declined to name this other hacker.

After considering evidence, the judge and jury in the case said it was “unlikely” that other people were responsible.

The court’s decision is the third to go against Mr Warg in the last five years.

He was deported from Cambodia in September 2013 to Sweden where he served a jail term for copyright theft because of his involvement with the Pirate Bay file-sharing site.

In a separate trial in 2013, Mr Warg was sentenced to two years in a Swedish jail for hacking into a bank’s computers. This sentence was reduced to one year on appeal.

In that trial, Mr Warg and accomplice were found guilty of breaking into the computer systems of computer services firm Logica, which was doing work for Sweden’s tax office and a bank. On that occasion his accomplice was put on probation.

In late November 2013 he was deported to Denmark to face charges in the CSC hacking cases.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29832318#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Microsoft unveils fitness band

Microsoft's new fitness bandMicrosoft’s new fitness band can last for two days on a single charge

Microsoft has unveiled its first wearable device that can track a user’s sleep and exercise as well as connect to a health service on smartphones.

The Microsoft Band will retail for $199 (£125) on the company’s online store.

The device can operate for two days on a single charge and has 10 sensors that can track heart rate, calories, stress and even a person’s sun exposure.

It marks Microsoft’s latest push into digital health after its medical record initiative HealthVault in 2007.

“This is just the beginning of a multi-year vision for Microsoft in the health fitness and wearables category,” the company said in an emailed statement.

“We want to enter this space in a deliberate and measured fashion and as such are launching first in the United States.”

Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit The Microsoft Band has been compared to Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Fit

Technology giants Apple, Samsung and Google have all released health initiatives and are looking to further develop the growing demand for wearable devices.

However, Microsoft’s device is distinctive because it will work with all major mobile operating systems as well as connect to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Consumers now have an overwhelming choice of health-related cloud platforms to choose from,” Ben Wood from CCS Insight told the BBC.

“They can be forgiven for being confused by the multitude of options. It’s going to be a tough decision to choose whether to place their loyalty with Apple, Google or Microsoft given the immaturity of all three platforms.

Furthermore, once they choose a platform they risk locking themselves into a long term commitment if they want to keep a lifetime of health-related data in one place.”

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Analysis: Richard Taylor, BBC North American technology correspondent

Microsoft had long been rumoured to be working on a health-centric wearable – and its timing, ahead of the busy holiday season, is no surprise either.

More than anything, Microsoft cannot be seen to be left behind, especially when other tech giants like Google and Apple are entering the burgeoning health-tech arena.

The Band will compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Smaller startups like FitBit and Jawbone initially kick-started the sector, and today other consumer electronics hardware giants (notably Samsung) already have some traction and offer an array of devices.

However, Microsoft appears to be offering something a little different.

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Microsoft cannot be seen to be left behind, especially when other tech giants like Google and Apple are entering the burgeoning health-tech arena”

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Unlike many of the more recent smartwatches which have recently come to market, the Band’s dazzling array of sensors suggests a primary focus on fitness-tracking rather than attempting to be a multi-purpose smartphone accessory.

And whereas others work largely with one mobile operating system, the Band and its companion Health app are cross-platform.

Microsoft’s cloud-based health service is also a key differentiator; harnessing Redmond’s strength in cloud computing, it will offer users deep insights of data gathered from other fitness devices and rival smartphones too.

Critics will say this openness was somewhat inevitable, as its own Windows Phone has negligible market share.

But it could well prove a canny move, broadening its appeal not just to consumers but also to other hardware partners, who will be able to licence Microsoft’s core sensor technology to make new gadgets of their own.

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Leaked details

Details about the Microsoft Band were leaked on Wednesday after companion applications for Windows, Android and Mac phones appeared on its website ahead of an official announcement.

A Microsoft Band Sync app appeared in the Mac App Store and revealed what the product looks like.

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It’s going to have to make a big marketing investment to raise awareness with US consumers”

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Ben Wood
CCS Insight

Some analysts believe Microsoft will face stiff competition in the wearables market because “the company has little or no brand”.

“Microsoft is targeting the higher tiers of the fitness band market – it’s going to have to make a big marketing investment to raise awareness with US consumers,” Mr Wood said.

“The number of fitness bands that have been launched this year is overwhelming – personally I’m already testing two on each wrist and I’m rapidly running out of places to wear them. It must be a daunting prospect for consumers trying to decide which one to buy.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29828649#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Big firms ‘must condemn GamerGate’

Zoe QuinnZoe Quinn has not been back to her home since receiving threats

Games publishers and industry figures must “stand-up and condemn” the movement referred to as “GamerGate”, developer Zoe Quinn has told the BBC.

Ms Quinn has been at the centre of a furore which some argue is about ethics in journalism, but others consider to be a largely misogynist hate campaign.

The 27-year-old was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats.

She said publishers must “say GamerGate, and what it’s been doing, is wrong”.

“The fact that so much of the responsibility is offloaded to the people most harmed by it, when somebody in a much safer position than I am can stand up and condemn it… it’s frustrating.”

Intimate details

In a highly-emotional interview, Ms Quinn told the BBC how her life had “completely changed” after she had become embroiled in the row.

In August, an ex-boyfriend of Ms Quinn published a blog post, that ran to thousands of words, detailing intimate details about their relationship.

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I don’t want to set an example that you can do this and get what you want.”

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Zoe Quinn
Developer

The posts included an accusation that Ms Quinn had had a relationship with a journalist at prominent games site Kotaku in an attempt to get positive reviews for her game, Depression Quest.

The allegation proved untrue – but the debate continued, and is now approaching its third month.

Ms Quinn, who has not returned home since the initial threats, had been speaking at the annual Gamecity event in Nottingham – despite a previous threat she would suffer a “crippling injury” the next time she went to a games conference.

“I used to go to games events and feel like I was going home,” Ms Quinn said.

“Now it’s just like… are any of the people I’m currently in the room with ones that said they wanted to beat me to death?

“It’s terrifying. It sucks to not have any privacy. This has all been so public. It’s more scrutiny than a politician faces – it’s living with constant fear in a place I called home.”

‘Horrible misrepresentation’

Some firms – such as Ubisoft – have come forward and said they were strongly against “harassment, bullying and threats”.

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group for US developers, released a statement saying: “Threats of violence and harassment are wrong.”

But Ms Quinn said she did not feel it went far enough.

Depression Quest screenshotZoe Quinn’s game is based on her own experiences with depression

“We need everybody to stand-up and condemn it – and not in this milquetoast ‘harassment is bad you guys’ way – because they don’t think that what they’re doing is harassment.”

She added: “When people that are prominent in the industry can stand up and say ‘I’m part of games, I love games, this hate mob doesn’t speak for me, this is not welcome in games’, it has the two-fold effect of making it less damaging to those that this can hurt, and it does something repair this horrible misrepresentation of this medium that so many of us love.

“Condemning them and say they do no speak for games – it’s so fundamental, otherwise this is going to keep happening.”

‘Pure toxicity’

Analysis of discussion about GamerGate has indicated that misogynist abuse – and vitriolic messages in general – is not limited to either “side” of the argument.

Journalist Allum Bokhari, a writer for TechCrunch, has said there was credible evidence that at least one well-known trolling group was “working to provoke both sides against each other”.

Meanwhile, some people previously offering highly vocal support of GamerGate have backed off.

Brianna Wu tweetBrianna Wu is another developer targeted by online abuse

“Through a snowball effect of misinformation, trolling, and ideological/emotional bias on both sides, the issue is quickly descending into a quagmire attracting trolls, extremists, and opportunists needlessly stirring the pot of controversy,” said one prominent figure who backed GamerGate, but wished to remain anonymous in this article.

“The harassment is ultimately an unfortunate variable affecting both sides of this situation, and it distresses me to see anyone live in fear.

“Dismissing GamerGate as a misogynist hate movement is not going to make it go away, because it just simply is not that – it’s a consumer boycott.

“Until we act like adults and come together to have a conversation on the ethics of games journalism, it’s only going to get worse and worse – that’s why I’m now choosing to distance myself from the issue.”

Ms Quinn herself suggested that the gaming ethics argument could progress – but only if it distanced itself fully from GamerGate tag.

“If you have any care for this industry, if you have any care for the future of games, you need to leave.

“If you have actual concerns, start over without [GamerGate]. If your concerns can’t exist on their own, if they have to be supported off the backs of ruining lives, then how legitimate are your concerns?”

‘Maybe they’ll be back’

As well as Ms Quinn, other women in the games industry have had to leave home due to threats to their safety, including Brianna Wu, a developer in Boston, and Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist writer and commentator.

Ms Sarkeesian had published a series of YouTube videos criticising the depiction of women in many popular games. Some felt it was applying a level of political correctness not needed in gaming.

Anita SarkeesianFeminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian also said she had fled her home after receiving death threats

Ms Quinn said it was important to keep talking about the issue openly.

“I don’t want to set an example that you can do this and get what you want.

“I have a folder on my desktop called ‘those who left’ – every time somebody sends me a message saying ‘hey, I really admire your strength, but it’s not worth it for me, I’m leaving’, I save these.

“I’m going to hopefully go back through it in a few years, and maybe they’ll be back.”

As for whether she would be able to continue her own career, she said: “I love games more than they hate me.”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

An extended interview with Zoe Quinn will be published later on Thursday.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29821050#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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White House computers ‘hacked’

The White HouseAccording to reports, an unclassified network was breached

A White House computer network has been breached by hackers, it has been reported.

The unclassified Executive Office of the President network was attacked, according to the Washington Post.

US authorities are reported to be investigating the breach, which was reported to officials by an ally of the US, sources said.

White House officials believe the attack was state-sponsored but are not saying what – if any – data was taken.

In a statement to the AFP news agency, the White House said “some elements of the unclassified network” had been affected.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post: “In the course of assessing recent threats, we identified activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network.

“Any such activity is something we take very seriously. In this case, we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity.

‘State-sponsored’

“Certainly, a variety of actors find our networks to be attractive targets and seek access to sensitive information. We are still assessing the activity of concern.”

The source said the attack was consistent with a state-sponsored effort and Russia is thought by the US government to be one of the most likely threats.

“On a regular basis, there are bad actors out there who are attempting to achieve intrusions into our system,” a second White House official told the Washington Post.

“This is a constant battle for the government and our sensitive government computer systems, so it’s always a concern for us that individuals are trying to compromise systems and get access to our networks.”

The Post quoted its sources as saying that the attack was discovered two-to-three weeks ago. Some White House staff were reportedly told to change their passwords and there was some disruption to network services.

In a statement given to Agence France-Presse, a White House official said the Executive Office of the President received daily alerts concerning numerous possible cyber threats.

In the course of addressing the breach, some White House users were temporarily disconnected from the network.

“Our computers and systems have not been damaged, though some elements of the unclassified network have been affected. The temporary outages and loss of connectivity for our users is solely the result of measures we have taken to defend our networks,” the official said.

The US’s National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Security Service were reportedly investigating.

Requests for comment were referred to the Department for Homeland Security, a spokesman for which was not immediately available. A White House spokesman has not responded to the BBC’s request for comment.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29817644#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Samaritans app flags worrying tweets



Phone showing the Samaritans Radar app

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WATCH: Rory Cellan-Jones shows how the new Samaritan Radar app works

The Samaritans charity has launched a new app which will notify Twitter users if people they follow on the site appear to be suicidal.

Samaritans Radar uses an algorithm to identify key words and phrases which indicate distress.

They include “tired of being alone”, “hate myself”, “depressed”, “help me” and “need someone to talk to.”

Users who have signed up for the scheme will receive an email alert if someone they follow tweets these statements.

The app asks whether the tweets are cause for concern.

However it does not yet identify sarcasm, according to the website.

The charity says it will not get involved directly unless requested.

‘not private’

Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research and development at Samaritans, told the BBC the app was not designed to be a furtive tracking tool.

“Radar is only picking up tweets that are public, giving you an opportunity to see tweets that you would have seen anyway,” he said.

“But imagine that a friend had posted something in the early hours of the morning, you’re on the way to work or college and your Twitter feed is full of messages that are arguably less important – Samaritans Radar gives you the opportunity to see that tweet again and have it highlighted to you.

“It’s not looking over your shoulder, it’s not looking anything that’s private, it’s just giving you the opportunity to see something and act on it.”

Samaritans Radar was created by digital agency Jam and uses Twitter’s API. It is primarily aimed at 18-35 year olds.

“They are ‘digital natives’ – growing up using new technology and the first generation to grow up with computers in their home,” said Patricia Cartes, global head of trust and safety outreach at Twitter.

“They are the most active age group across social platforms and spend an average of just over three hours daily on social networks.”



Emma, who suffered from depression in her teens

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WATCH: Emma suffered from undiagnosed depression as a teenager

Samaritans said it was looking at extending the service to other social media networks in the future.

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Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

Samaritans Radar is aimed in particular at a generation which lives its life online – and sometimes finds it easier to express its deepest hopes and fears in a tweet rather than face to face.

The app has some smart technology which will learn from its users to distinguish phrases that are really indicative of suicidal tendencies.

Samaritans is aware that there may be a “creepy” factor, with users worried that someone is looking over their shoulder as they and their friends tweet.

But the charity says it needs to be where people are in the modern digital world – and it believes helping people help each other could save lives.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29801214#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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‘Terror’ wi-fi signal delays flight

wi-fi listWi-fi networks appear when detected by mobile devices.

A wi-fi signal named “Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork” (sic) has resulted in a long delay for passengers on a plane at Los Angeles airport.

A passenger alerted American Airlines cabin crew when his smartphone identified the network as one available nearby and police were notified.

After an investigation lasting several hours, police at the airport said no crime had been committed.

The flight from LA to London on Sunday was eventually rescheduled for Monday.

Many broadband subscribers re-name their home wi-fi network to personalise it.

When a device comes within range of the network, its name will appear on a list of potentially available wi-fi connections.

While some use their family name or the name of their house, others take a more satirical approach.

‘Sometimes it’s funny’

“It can be a kooky way of saying you support a local football team or you want to bait your neighbour who supports the opposing team,” said Stuart Miles of tech review site Pocket Lint.

“Some people use it as advertising. It’s an unwritten code of spreading a message that you’re allowed to do – but obviously sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s not.”

In a discussion about favourite wi-fi names on community site Reddit, users admitted to using titles like “FBI Surveillance Van”, “ISIS HQ” and names that sounded like computer viruses to alarm passers-by.

The acronym LAN (Local Area Network) – the name given to a network linking a small group of computers in a home or business hub – has also been the subject of puns.

‘Get off my LAN’, ‘the promised LAN’ and ‘WuTangLAN’, a homage to US rappers Wu-Tang Clan, are popular choices.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29801207#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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‘Smart cycle lanes’ pitched to UK

Smart highwayThe lines charge during the day and glow at night

A stretch of glow-in-the-dark road markings has been installed in the Netherlands after being proposed as one of several “smart highway” features that could be put to wide use.

Route 66 of the Future uses special green paint, charged by daylight.

It is designed to be clearer than existing cat’s eye reflective spheres.

Its creators are also due to test glow-in-the-dark cycle lanes, which they said had already attracted the interest of UK planners.

“The glowing lines are a little … Daft Punk look-alike but they are to do with safety,” said artist Daan Roosegaarde, one of the road markings’ designers.

“The three lines merge into one and you feel that it guides you. With fog, you see them more than with standard light,”

He has worked on the project – and many others – with Hans Goris, a civil engineer at infrastructure firm Heijmans.

“There is much less energy used,” said Mr Roosegaarde of the photo-luminescent paint he uses.

“There will be big projects, we have requests from China and India – these are places where you need safe roads that are disconnected from the energy grid.”

Smart highwayIt is hoped the markings will drastically cut the energy required to light roads

A stretch of road at Oss, near Nijmegen in the south of the country, is being used to showcase the design.

Their first cycle highway, called the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Light Emitting Bicycle Path, is due to be launched in December in Nuenen, which was once home to the Dutch post-impressionist artist.

According to Mr Roosegaarde, it was inspired by Van Gogh’s masterpiece “Starry Night”. He said he had demonstrated the technology to authorities from Birmingham and London earlier this month.

Both, he said, were due to watch follow-up tests in the coming months with a view to introducing the innovation to the UK.

Prof David Bailey, an automotive expert at Aston Business School in Birmingham, backed the idea of a test to see it it truly made cyclists more visible at night and encouraged motorists to give them more space.

“The Netherlands is much better organised than the UK, they have a much better laid-out network of highways,” he commented.

“It is a good idea to try it, though.

“There is a possibility of reducing electricity use as well.”

Smart highwayMr Roosegaarde believes his design will be used across the world

Mr Roosegaarde said that his team had around 20 ideas that it wanted to try to implement over a five-year period.

He was speaking from Beijing, where he said he was constructing a “smog-free park by building the largest vacuum cleaner in the world”.

“We think half of the ideas will influence roads in the future to make them energy neutral and functional,” he added.

“It is not just an artwork, we want to update reality.”

‘Great connection’

He also remarked that Britain’s tradition of blending craftsmanship and function made it a perfect place to install his cycle highway.

“For a small country like the Netherlands, we have to be creative – that is how we will survive. I won’t say what the UK should and shouldn’t do but I can see similarities. You cherish your heritage but you want to make it contemporary too.

“There is a great connection between the art and the technical in Britain – the Spitfire is a good example.”

He said he hoped that, if the project went ahead, it would be finished within two years.

Both the Mayor of London’s office and Birmingham Council were contacted about the tests but neither were able to confirm plans to send a delegation.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29796039#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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Keyless cars ‘targeted by thieves’

Range RoverRange Rover said it was working with police to tackle those who re-programmed entry keys

Organised criminal gangs are increasingly targeting high-end cars with keyless security systems, a motoring industry group has warned.

The thieves are able to bypass security using equipment intended only for mechanics, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Manufacturers are trying to stay ahead of the thieves by updating software.

It has been reported that some London-based owners of Range Rovers have been denied insurance over the issue.

Keyless entry and ignition typically works by the driver keeping a fob on their person which automatically opens the car and activates it so it can be driven.

As the popularity of keyless systems has increased, criminals have been buying equipment online that is able to re-programme keys.

“The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem,” said Jaguar Land Rover.

“Our line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.

“Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem.”

Keyless ignitionKeyless ignition means drivers press a button to start a car

The statement added: “This has already resulted in a number of prosecutions.”

A specific case reported by The Times involved insurers AIG refusing insurance cover to a motorist. In a statement the company said it treated every case individually.

“We do not have a blanket policy to exclude certain vehicles from cover.

“Given the increasing likelihood that replacement vehicles may be a target for thieves we may ask for additional security measures such as secure off-road parking.

Continue reading the main story

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By far the most common way of a car being stolen is still from thieves breaking into homes and stealing keys”

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Ian Crowder
AA

“This could be, for example, secure private garaging or the installation of mechanically moveable bollards. If this is not possible then, as a last resort, we may refuse to offer insurance cover but only after exhausting every avenue.”

Thatcham Research, which collates data on behalf of insurers, acknowledged the problem was widespread.

“Whilst BMWs and Audis appeared to be the early targets, it’s fair to say that this was largely associated with their desirability across Europe, rather than any specific security lapse.

“Recently we’ve seen evidence of a range of makes and models being affected, including the Ford Fiesta and Focus, Range Rover Evoque and also now including light commercial vehicles such as the volume-selling Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.”

Weakest link

It is becoming much harder to steal cars. According to the Office for National Statistics, car theft has fallen from 318,000 in 2002 to 77,500 last year.

But thefts involving computer equipment used to circumvent security are rising. The SMMT is pushing for stronger legislation to help reverse this.

“The challenge remains that the equipment being used to steal a vehicle in this way is legitimately used by workshops to carry out routine maintenance,” a spokesman said.

“As part of the need for open access to technical information to enable a flourishing after-market, this equipment is available to independent technicians. However a minority of individuals are exploiting this to obtain the equipment to access vehicles fraudulently.

“We need better safeguards within the regulatory framework to make sure this equipment does not fall into unlawful hands and, if it does, that the law provides severe penalties to act as an effective deterrent.”

But Ian Crowder, from motorists’ group the AA, warned the risk should not be overstated.

“By far the most common way of a car being stolen is still from thieves breaking into homes and stealing keys,” he said.

“The keys are still the weakest link in a car security chain. If someone has your keys, they have your car.”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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Do you own a keyless car? Are you concerned by the issues in this story? Email your reaction to haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29786320#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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