Falvio Garcia is a computer science lecturer in University of Birmingham who recently found a weakness in the security system of some major luxury cars. He intended to publish these findings in a research paper, but a court has now barred him from doing so, citing that this may lead to car thefts.
Garcia has been able to spot a weakness in the security system of the luxury cars by finding out the unique algorithm which lets the car identify the right ignition key. Once the algorithm has been identified, it can be easily manipulated to fool a luxury car into identifying a wrong key as right and letting the person using the key start the car.
The luxury cars which could be exploited using this method involve models from Audis, Porsches, Bentleys and Lamborghinis. This is precisely the reason why one of the parent companies of a major luxury car brand launched legal proceedings against Garcia, trying to bar him from publishing any of his findings.
In the filings by Volkswagen’s parent company, it was complained that such a publication would “allow someone, especially a sophisticated criminal gang with the right tools, to break the security and steal a car.” Garcia, on the other hand, was of the view that “the public have a right to see weaknesses in security on which they rely exposed”, an argument which is quite fair. In fact, hackers and security researchers have long worked hard and found exploits, publishing them in papers, so that different vendors can improve their security further.
So it makes no sense to bar Garcia from publishing his findings since this will inevitably lead to the luxury car industry, improving upon its models. Discarding this argument, a UK court has now given an interim injunction against Garcia, essentially banning him from publishing his findings. This is also a direct assault on freedom of speech.