Flipper Zero Panic Spreads To Oz: Cars Unaffected

A feature of coming to adulthood for any young person in the last quarter of the twentieth century would have been the yearly warnings about the danger of adulterated Halloween treats. Stories were breathlessly repeated of apples with razor blades in them, or of chocolate bars laced with rat poison, and though such tales often carried examples of kids who’d died horrible deaths in other far-away places, the whole panic was (as far as we know) a baseless urban legend.

It’s difficult not to be reminded of those times today then, as we read news from Australia warning about the threat from the Flipper Zero wireless hacking tool. It has the same ingredients, of an imaginary threat earnestly repeated by law enforcement officers, and lapped up by a credulous media with little appetite for verifying what they print.

This is a story which first appeared in mid-February in Canada, when a government minister singled out the Flipper Zero as a car theft tool and promised to ban it. This prompted a storm of derision from tech-savvy Canadians and others who immediately pointed out that vehicle security has long ago eclipsed the capabilities of the Flipper, and that there are far more pertinent threats such as those from CAN bus attacks or even RF boosters. Despite this debunking, it seems to have spread. Where will Flipper Mania pop up next?

Canada and Australia are both countries with a free press; that press should be doing their job on these stories by fact-checking and asking pertinent questions when the facts don’t fit the story. When it comes to technology stories it seems not doing this has become the norm.

Thanks [Peter Caldwell] for the tip.

15 thoughts on “Flipper Zero Panic Spreads To Oz: Cars Unaffected

  1. Flipper panic is both funny and yet face-palm worthy.

    Its literally just an STM32 with a bunch of standard transceivers put in a toy-like case. To call that a sophisticated car theft tool is like trying to equate a pair of scissors to a combat knife. The flipper can do a wide variety of things, but pretty much all of it are simple/old stuff that really shouldn’t be relied on for security. If the flipper can bypass it? That is more a wake-up call that you really REALLY should do something about the vulnerability in question.

    But that is always the thing. basic CAN busses that can rig a car, unencrypted RFID/NFC authentication systems, electronic locks where the locking pin can be retracted by just swiping over it with a small magnet, Payment devices with exposed serial links that can be sniffed by a tiny logger. Lots of vulnerabilities that say more about the people who made it and sometimes the cheapskates that refuse to upgrade/update security, then it does about the people who exploit it.

  2. Flipper is open-source, right? Open-source instructions take on a life of their own, beyond the ability of border goons or take down requests to hinder them. See:
    The authoritarians in Australia and Canada are setting themselves up to look like right utter April fools. Perhaps locals could hold “flipper zero manufacturing parties”, meet up and churn the devices out in bulk to show that such bans are both worthy of utter contempt, and utterly futile.

  3. I don’t doubt that the Australian Nanny State government and the Murdoch controlled media will be using these as a smoke screen to hide behind while bigger issues such as cost of living and our housing crisis spiral out of control.

  4. That only thing more gormless than our politicians in Australia would have to be our journalists, who are also very lazy and blatantly biased. We try to ignore them and keep them out of our lives as best we can but they are as tenacious as blowflys.

  5. An example of a lazy bit of journalism done during a long holiday weekend to get a quick easy story up.

    Take the existing Canadian example feed it through ChatGPT or some such, find (or invent)? a local police spokesperson to give a vague qoute agreeing with the FUD already out there while actually promoting other vehicle security hardware , hand it over to a regional branch of a national broadcaster that needs to keep up with their charter of feeding stories all holiday weekend to ‘inform’ the people and you end up with more rubbish like this.

    My RC radio can do about as much hacking as one of these things can.

    I tend to agree with KenN, it can’t hurt Flipper sales too much can it?, But then again, go grab yourself the names of the people actually buying them and your lawmakers get themselves a lazy list of potential bad actors…now there is a conspiracy theory right there!

  6. I’ve lodged a complaint to ABC about this. I’d suggest you do the same so our combined power sends a clear message that this kind of scaremongering ‘journalism’ is not acceptable.

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