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RFID-enabled Vehicles: Pinch My Ride 429

Posted by Hemos
from the dude-where's-my-car dept.
Billosaur writes "Wired has an excellent article on the problems with the theft of RFID-enabled vehicles and how insurance companies are so over-confident in the technology, they are denying claims when such vehicles are stolen. Example: "Emad Wassef walked out of a Target store in Orange County, California, to find a big space where his 2003 Lincoln Navigator had been. The 38-year-old truck driver and former reserve Los Angeles police officer did what anyone would do: He reported the theft to the cops and called his insurance company. Two weeks later, the black SUV turned up near the Mexico border, minus its stereo, airbags, DVD player, and door panels. Wassef assumed he had a straightforward claim for around $25,000. His insurer, Chicago-based Unitrin Direct, disagreed." Their forensic examiner concluded that since all the keys were accounted for, there was no way the engine could have been started, despite the evidence that the ignition lock had been forced and the steering wheel locking lug had been damaged."
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RFID-enabled Vehicles: Pinch My Ride

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  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlackCobra43 (596714) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:39PM (#15818012)
    A local man who was the victim of a Home Invasion was shocked to learn that his insurance claim was denied because "As all of his home keys were still in his property, no one could have entered the house". Shard of broken glass, the robber's blood, his conviction in court and a lucky passerby's videotapes were also dismissed as "clever fakes". InsuranceCo stock jumped another 3 points today...
  • by dfn_deux (535506) * <datsun510.gmail@com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:41PM (#15818030) Homepage
    Seems that there are at least a handful of commonly known/used methods for circumventing rfid embedded key/security systems in cars. Several of these are documented by the manufacturers of the cars. It is a ridiculous notion that if say all the keys to the car had been lost that it would then be impossible to somehow replace the keys or reprogram the system for another set. Any insurance company making such claims is obviously letting the smell of money overwhelm their senses and has overlooked what is quite simply the fact of the matter...

    The man in the headline should clearly be bending his insurer over a barrel and giving them a good legal fucking...

  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:42PM (#15818038) Homepage Journal
    ...to deny claims. That's what they do. Insurance companies aren't in business to pay for people's losses, they're in business not to pay for people's losses, because the less they pay out, the greater profit they make. The portrayal in The Incredibles was just about dead-on. So getting them to fork over is often like trying to squeeze blood from a stone even at the best of times.
  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker @ g mail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:43PM (#15818047) Journal
    And none of these methods involve breaking the steering column as well as take some serious planning as well as obtaining manufacuring codes.
  • by HugePedlar (900427) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:46PM (#15818073) Homepage
    You don't think the issue here is RFID spoofing, perhaps?
  • by russotto (537200) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:46PM (#15818078) Journal
    If the car can't (according to the insurance company) be stolen, then by accepting premiums for insurance which covers loss due to theft (without any intention of ever paying said claims), they are comitting fraud. Sounds like some insurance company executives need to go to jail.
  • by Last_Save (991561) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:48PM (#15818089)
    I would have to agree, my own car insurance company is refusing to pay for medical bill's (MVA + No fault Polices) becuase their "doctors" went over my medical reconds and determined that a flare up with my back is a whole new injury and not at all related to my MVA (wich it is). It is ridiculuos how often insurance companies will go to avoid paying out.
  • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:51PM (#15818123) Journal
    ...which is what I really think is going on here, it's at least partly a classic case of turning off reasoning and common sense wherever technology is involved. The same amazingly intelligent people who can't operate the clock on the VCR are running the world and denying your claims.
  • Re:In other news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:52PM (#15818125)
    It's also possible to tow such a car.

    A car can be stolen without starting its engine.
  • by dfn_deux (535506) * <datsun510.gmail@com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:55PM (#15818159) Homepage
    Actually all of these methods require the steering column to be opened in order to disable the steering lock detent mechanism. And they do require preplanning, but if you are targetting a specific make/model fo car then the planning isn't too difficult. It is foolish to assume that theives are just going about this willy nilly and stealing in the heat of the moment when they are overcome with desire. Often times thefts are carried out by highly organized gangs with the specific intent of picking specific targets with high resale of stolen parts and then carrying out well planned thefts where-in their chances of getting caught are signifigantly lowered and their probability of getting a big pay day are likewise raised.

    Tis a foolish man who assumes that dishonesty goes hand in hand with stupidity (and vice versa for that matter) high technology secuirty systems just encourage theives to be much more sophisticated...

  • by tdvaughan (582870) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:55PM (#15818166) Homepage
    You can still steal the car by towing it away which is insurable against. If, however, they find evidence that the car was driven then they assume that the owner was complicit in the car's theft as they believe that the car is only drivable with the keys in the ignition.
  • Re:DNA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:58PM (#15818183)
    If your DNA is found inside of a rape-victim's vagina, however, then yes, you probably are guilty.

    You're guilty of having sex with her around the time she was raped, yes. Is that enough to convict you of her rape? Not by a long shot.

  • 21st century magic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beavis88 (25983) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:06PM (#15818247)
    Why is it that most people automatically assume technological solutions to problems are infallible, and don't create any further problems? This certainly isn't limited to insurance adjusters and stolen cars, just another convenient reminder that when faced with something they don't understand, the average person seems to just shut down their brain and move on.
  • by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:07PM (#15818260)
    you neglect to account for the possible neccesity of such a vehicle, perhaps this many has a large family and a boat which he frequently tows?

    Large families and boats are both lifestyle choices as well. Choices which it's perfectly valid to criticize.
  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:16PM (#15818334)
    I would mod your post up, but since it is already at +5, I'll confirm it instead:

    There have been cases among my acquaintances and relatives where the insurance companies refused to pay with the most threadbare excuses. My conclusion is to have only the most essential insurance and to be ready to sue the insurance company if necessary.

  • catch-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m874t232 (973431) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:22PM (#15818390)
    Their forensic examiner concluded that since all the keys were accounted for, there was no way the engine could have been started,

    And if not all the keys had been accounted for, the insurance company would have refused to pay because the guy was careless with his keys.

    I hope the victim will be able to recover both his loss and penalties from the insurance company.
  • Ummm.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirstea d . o rg> on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:27PM (#15818428) Homepage

    US carmakers and auto-mobile insurers are unshakably certain that vehicles protected by "transponder immobil-izers" can't be driven without the proper keys - or, at least, that circumventing those transponder systems takes more sweat and money than most auto thieves are willing to expend.

    I think these companies are seriously fooling themselves. It's not like every crook has to go through the trouble of cracing the system - only one does - they can then sell their crack to everyone else.

    Who wants to bet that right now, as we speak, car thieves know more about these systems than the insurance company forensic investigators do?

    I don't even know anything about them and I know how this could be done. These systems work like any other public key encryption, they rely on the fact that there is a **private key** in the car that no one knows about. One leak in the system, either in the plant, or in the chip in the car, or in a disgruntled employee at a dealership, and the system falls apart. Boom, it is now trivial to make fake RFID "keys" that respond with the right handshake to private keys sent from the car.

  • by Phreakiture (547094) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:28PM (#15818440) Homepage

    Insurance companies aren't in business to pay for people's losses, they're in business not to pay for people's losses, because the less they pay out, the greater profit they make.

    Insurance companies are corporate gamblers. They are betting you are a good driver and that your car won't get stolen or damaged. Your insurance premium is reflective of how good of a bet this is.

    That said, when they lose the bet, they will try to weasel out of paying it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:35PM (#15818505)
    Insurance companies are corporate gamblers.

    No they are not. No more than the casinos are gamblers. They operate within a designed system that ALWAYS works out to their advantage. They know how many cars get stolen per year in Palo Alto, and charge you accordingly.

    If your car gets stolen, they are still ahead.

    Insurance takes the risk of one individual and spreads it across an entire population.
  • Re:In other news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 'nother poster (700681) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:37PM (#15818523)
    When did they start putting super magnets in drives? The read/write heads are electromagnets, and they aren't particularly powerful. Their biggest points are they generate a very small field so the bits can be smaller, and that they can state change REALLY fast.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:37PM (#15818534) Journal
    ...which is what I really think is going on here, it's at least partly a classic case of turning off reasoning and common sense wherever technology is involved.
    Or the insurance companies find it convienent to buy the tech hype, irregardless of whether they actually believe the system is undefeatable.

    Maybe the policy got set from up high: We do not pay out claims on immobilizer equipped cars unless they meet [X, Y, Z] criteria.

    Don't forget, there is always a disconnect between the Marketing Dept & the Engineers who design a security/safety system.

    You really wanna secure your car?
    Install a fuel cutoff switch somewhere non-obvious. Yes, it is security through obscurity, but most thieves don't have the time to troubleshoot a car that won't start.
  • Re:DNA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:37PM (#15818536)
    Uh, if the sex was consensual I doubt you'd even be in court in the first place. All she would have to do is say...

    That also assumes she's still alive.
  • Not necessarily... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:38PM (#15818539)
    When I was in college, there were groups going around telling women that "you may just not know you were raped." They had a clear goal of blurring the line between the words "rape" and "regret". It is nieve to believe that EVERY woman who claims rape really was raped. If it wasn't, we wouldn't need courts. Just a woman pointing a finger, and the man could be hauled off to jail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:39PM (#15818560)
    The RFID key doesn't matter. Any car, suv, truck, minivan, or box with wheels can be stolen with a tow truck. End of story it can be stolen just pay the man.
  • Read "The Rainmaker" by John Grisham for an account of some of the dirty practices of insurance companies in denying claims.

    FTFA summary: "Their forensic examiner concluded that since all the keys were accounted for, there was no way the engine could have been started"

    Since when do you need the keys to steal a vehicle? And if all the keys WEREN'T accounted for, the claim would have been denied because "obviously the claimant was negligent and someone else got a key from them."

  • Re:DNA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by macdaddy (38372) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:06PM (#15818820) Homepage Journal
    And that she doesn't have overbearing overzealous parents who will never believe that Daddy's Little Girl (tm) could ever have premarital sex so it must have been rape.
  • by Svartalf (2997) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:17PM (#15818934) Homepage
    Or a swapped out ECU. Don't for a moment think that the crooks stealing the expensive
    vehciles don't have access to resources to glom onto a hacked or tuner's ECU somewhere
    that doesn't DO the RFID check. If it doesn't have an alarm system, it's very believeable
    that someone could have busted into the vehicle, swapped out ECUs, busted the column
    lock and cover and drove off in about 10 minutes or so- less if they've got more than
    one thief working in parallel.
  • by symbolic (11752) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:31PM (#15819090)

    I thought it was accepted practice to stall, misrepresent, impose legal costs, hide behind obscure terminology in a contract, and employ countless other ways to avoid rendering its primary service.
  • Insurance - especially car insurance, which one is required by law to carry - is forced extortion. I have seen denied claims, paid claims with increased premiums that beyond-covered the paid-out claim, my own insurance premiums rise after my car was hit while parked, etc., etc., etc.

    Insurance companies are evil, ladies and gentlemen, and will do everything in their power to stop from having to pay out a dime. While I'm now paying $35 copay for prescriptions through Aetna, they also have a new thing called "precertification" whereby the doctor has to call the insurance company and "approve" the use of a drug. Now, if the doctor hadn't wanted me to have the drug, I'm sure I wouldn't be at CVS with my prescription. Nonetheless, yet another roadblock to actual payout of insurance coverage.

    You think Pharma = evil? Check out insurance. Especially in the case of Katrina. Home insurance doesn't cover flood insurance. Flood insurance doesn't cover mud damage. Etc.

    Makes me sick.
  • by TrentC (11023) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:28PM (#15819662) Homepage
    When I was in college, there were groups going around telling women that "you may just not know you were raped." They had a clear goal of blurring the line between the words "rape" and "regret".

    No, they had a clear goal of making women understand that having a guy cornering them in their room and not letting them out until they "give it up" isn't something they should be expected to live with, or that waking up in a frat house with no clothes on and no memory of last night, isn't just something that "just happens".

    Women have an impressive double-standard to live with; if they get assaulted or raped, well, obviously they should have known better. But if they assume that a man might try to rape her if they are alone together, or doesn't want to be in a position where she can be overpowered or outnumbered, well, then she's obviously a man-hater/feminist/dyke. Nowhere in either of those equations is the man's behavior held to any standard.

    It is nieve to believe that EVERY woman who claims rape really was raped.

    The staistics for false claims of rape are in line with false claims for other crimes. (Well, it depends on who you ask and what time period the study in question covers; the numbers seem to swing from 1 percent to 25 percent of claims, with each end of the range having its defenders.) Also, many rapes go unreported, which would make the percentage of false claims vs. actual rapes even smaller still. But of course, any attempt to raise awareness or to encourage women to talk about what happened to them is "blurring the line between 'rape' and 'regret'".

    By your reasoning, we should assume that any person who claims they were robbed or assaulted is lying just because some people lie about it, or live in fear that we could be sent to jail by having someone pointing a finger at us and saying "he stole from me" if we don't defend the reputation of accused thieves.
  • by BatMacumba (990248) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:52PM (#15819888)
    How was this modded 4/informative? Ever heard of a @#$%@#$% tow truck? 'never pass up a chance to suck up to a multi-billion dollar industry' :P
  • by sshir (623215) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:02PM (#15820534)
    Sure. But the problem is: does the insurance company structure the policy in such a way that the share of liability coverage premium is fair (in probability times damage sense)?

    I.e. they can shift the premium towards liability so it will constitute 80% of total policy premium. In such situation there is no reason to drop collision etc. (because it's almost free)

    As result insurance co. overcharges those with minimal insurance (poor), while everybody else pays the same...

    Evil...

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!

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