back to article How to track equipped cars via exploitable e-ink platemaker

California's street-legal ink license plates only received a nod from the US government in October, but reverse engineers have already discovered vulnerabilities in the system allowing them to track each plate, reprogram them or even delete them at a whim. In a blog post by security researcher Sam Curry, he describes a project …

  1. TimMaher Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Stick them on a Tesla.

    Just saying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

      and send out statewide broadcasts of their position. Just so that other road users can avoid those Tesla occupiers who insist on driving everywhere on FSD and sleeping.

      FWIW, here in the UK, I think that the Model 3 (Black naturally) has taken over from the BMW 3 Series as the drive of choice for the bonehead company car drivers who stick in lane 3(or 4 or 5) of motorways even if the road is clear.

      Come on Cops you have the CCTV... why don't you prosecute them. It is not as it you have to go out in the rain and cold to nab them is it?

      1. Manolo
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

        Come on Cops you have the CCTV... why don't you prosecute them.

        A chimp AI could be trained to do it.

        1. spireite Silver badge

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          Finally a use for ChatGPT

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

        Here in California, Tesla drivers are taking over from the holier-than-thou Subaru drivers who think that "doing their part to save the world" means they can ignore all driving laws whenever they like. BMW drivers take a back seat to the other two in this travesty of a triumvirate.

        1. JohnTill123

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          Interesting. Here in Canada the drivers who are the worst are the Audi and VW Jetta lunatics. In the urban areas, Subarus are usually either found at Lee Valley tools (Very high end woodworking vendor), or driven by short-haired, very serious women who don't wear makeup.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            That user profile is not unique to Canada...

          2. xyz Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            >>or driven by short-haired, very serious women who don't wear makeup.

            My girlfriend has just bought dungarees, should I be worried?

            1. captain veg Silver badge

              should I be worried?

              Depends. Do you like dungarees?

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BODDyZRF6A

              -A.

        2. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          Why would 'Subaru drivers [...] think that [they were] "doing their part to save the world"'?

          I ran a Forester S for a few years. It was great for going fast from point to point, especially if one of those points was somewhere snowy. It slurped petrol like it was going out of fashion. All The Time. It didn't matter how you drove it. Try to drive economically? Absolutely no difference. It would almost literally laugh at you. So naturally I caned it all the time, until one day I decided I couldn't afford to keep it in four-star any longer and I got a small diesel.

          -A.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            “Four star” was banned in 2000 so that was a very old example of a Subaru Forester which first appeared in 1997. But I recall any Subaru EJ Boxer engine was very thirsty by European standards. Probably not bad compared to the average under endowed compensating Hemi driver.

            1. captain veg Silver badge

              Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

              Shorthand for 98-octane. Four-star was also known as "super" before the TEL was removed, and the marketing price point became "super unleaded".

              -A.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            I believe the Subaru PZEV models are seen by some as "environmentally conscious" vehicles. Those may be the ones preferred by the owners jake refers to.

            In these parts, it's not so much the make of the vehicle as the state in which it's registered that folks tend to note. If it's from Colorado, you're not surprised if the driver's going ten mph under the limit. If it's from Texas, you're not surprised by anything they do.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

        "Come on Cops you have the CCTV... why don't you prosecute them. It is not as it you have to go out in the rain and cold to nab them is it?"

        Have you seen the sorry images that most .gov controlled CCTV cameras produce? It's almost impossible to see what people are doing on those cheap-ass pieces of shit, much less ID a perp or read a plate ... and that's before all the the bird crap & etc. that builds up on the lenses.

        The things might be a deterrent, but it's not because they produce usable pictures.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          Except for the profitable ones. Speed cameras seem to do just fine, for instance.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            I know of many cities here in Northern California which have done away with speed cameras ,,, mainly because they cost much more to operate and maintain than they bring into the city as revenue.

          2. abetancort

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            Speed-cams are expensive, they take pictures and don’t record video. On the other hand, cctv records video and the cameras are inexpensive when compared to speed-cams.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

              In the Netherlands I've come across cctv cameras that do both, annoyingly so.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

                Probably quite a bit better than a standard CCTV, and just a little worse than most speed cams, barely enough to be useful. With all of the speed cam's maintenance headaches. Can't take good pics with Gull shit on the glass ...

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

              "Speed-cams are expensive, they take pictures"

              Yep. But even they don't work without a spendy maintenance contract to keep the lens clean.

        2. Wayland

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          I think they start with very good images but run it through a filter to make it look terrible.

        3. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          > Have you seen the sorry images that most .gov controlled CCTV cameras produce?

          Well yes. Handily they send them to you along with the demand for fine payment.

          I'm speaking mostly of .gov.fr and .gov.es. YMMV.

          -A.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            There is a difference between CCTV and a speed camera's snapshot.

        4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          Have you seen the sorry images that most .gov controlled CCTV cameras produce?

          Sure, at first, but if you yell "zoom! ... enhance! ... zoom!" a few times it magically becomes better.

          1. Richard Pennington 1

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            The last thing you want is a speed camera which can add some extra zoom ...

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            Don't give the idiots any ideas ...

            Is anybody reading ElReg not tired of explaining why, exactly, so-called "digital zoom" isn't all that useful?

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          "It's almost impossible to see what people are doing on those cheap-ass pieces of shit"

          Yeah, but some .gov purchasing drone got a bonus for finding the best price on those. They met the spec (on paper) and just because they were bought from an out of country vendor with tax payer money to save those 18p shouldn't enter into it.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            Apparently one town not far from here bought the cheapest CCTV cams they could find. Wound up installing a bunch of boxes with a red LED, a fake lens, and no electronics (at all!) inside. The LED was there to indicate there was power to the LED. The council, defending its actions, said "they were just there as a deterrent, this way there are no privacy concerns, and besides it was use-it-or-lose-it federal grant money".

            BART did the same thing.

            Your tax dollars at work. The mind boggles.

      4. Rikki Tikki

        Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

        "send out statewide broadcasts of their position. Just so that other road users can avoid those Tesla occupiers who insist on driving everywhere on FSD and sleeping."

        I think a (flashing) sign on top of the car would be better ("Danger: FSD engaged'). Judging from those I have interacted with around Canberra, FSD is not very good at merging - either "2 lanes into 1" or detecting a queue of traffic merging onto a motorway. And I wonder how it would cope with the drive from Canberra to Queanbeyan NSW - only 15 km, but with several merges, traffic lights, and different roundabout give way rules in ACT and NSW.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          In that same line of approach I would like to legally mandate an extra foglight aimed directly at a driver's face inside the car when the driver has been found to use foglights for no reason twice.

          The amount of morons who see fit to blind all traffic behind them as soon as they see but a whisp of fog and then leave them on for weeks later would frankly offer a massive amount of revenue if they bothered to fine them.

          1. captain veg Silver badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            Agreed. But...

            Some years ago I hired a Toyota blando-saloon to schlep me and some chums from Paris to the south of France. We set out after work and soon it was dark. I was repeatedly flashed by drivers coming the other way, but I couldn't work out why. Eventually I noticed the faint reflection of an idiot light in the side window. It was warning of the fact that the previous user had put the fog lights on, but was completely hidden from the driver's eyeline by the steering wheel.

            By contrast, centre stage in the dash was a much brighter light that came on periodically for no reason that I could immediately fathom and which made me fear, having been brought up on a diet of British-made fayre, that the engine was about to explode. That turned out to be telling me that the engine had decided to switch to some kind of eco-friendly mode. Like I needed to know that so much more urgently than that I was blinding oncoming drivers.

            I understand that Toyota is pretty good at putting cars together. I would never buy one.

            -A.

          2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

            Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

            Fog ? They need Fog to trigger turning them on ?

            I find too many people seem to think they should go on because there's a bit of drizzle about.

            Undoubtably they are a good idea when there really is fog about, but I do wonder if the benefits of proper use actually outweigh the downsides of improper use. And while on that, I'd also like a REALLY bright light to shine the in the face of drivers who sit there with their foot on the brake because they can't be bothered to use the parking brake when (e.g.) it's obvious they won't be moving until all the other phases of the traffic lights have been worked through.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

              Fog Lights: pl. Noun. Small low-hanging lights on the front of a vehicle, often turned on in bright, sunny weather to indicate the driver's head is in a fog.

        2. abetancort

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          You meant Tesla’s users using their FAD tech (full auto-driving), you shouldn’t call Tesla’s FSD anything but a FAD.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          FSD is not very good at merging

          FIFY..

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stick them on a Tesla.

          I think Teslas on FSD need someone walking in front of them with a red flag, but the problem is that that may trigger the FSD to run them over - you don't know for sure if Musk did not add an Olé mode somewhere as well.

  2. spuck

    Solution in search of a problem

    $800 - $1000 every two years to "manage" my license plate?

    Someone please explain what advantage this has for anybody other than the manufacturer or the lobbyists who want this?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Solution in search of a problem

      $800 - $1000 every two years to "manage" my license plate?

      There are a lot of people in CA with more money than sense.

      Soon to be coming to a state near you. Don't you just love progress when it is as useless as this?

      Give me the old black and silver/white plates any day.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solution in search of a problem

      Thin edge of the wedge, and not by accident.

      What everyone seems to casually ignore with the whole 'going electric' thing is that you can't tell a farmer's electricity from the domestic one. Whereas with H2 you have at least a different type of supply for home heating than car power (much higher pressure), and with e-fuels you'd have the same model as now without changing much in the way of infrastructure, there's no telling power apart - you're one transformer away from anonymity.

      Ergo the question: how is this going to be taxed? Don't forget that a very large portion of your fuel price is actually tax, and I have yet to meet a minister who wants to waste less money so the tax question is rather important - which is why you're probably looking at expanding the espionage network that most electric cars are already part of. If your car does OTA, you can be tracked. That doesn't mean it's already enabled (although I'm willing to bet Tesla's probably do this by default), but road pricing seems to be the only way to address this, hence trackable license plates, "statistics", SOS monitoring - any excuse to ensure your vehicle is already set up for broadcast the moment they decide to start work on this. Of course, initially it won't be for that, some BS reason will be invented (I think terrorism is out on this one, too obvious) but bit by bit you will eventually be watched closer than a senior BBC presenter in an orphanage.

      I find it very suspicious that nobody in politics is talking about it, probably because that would put a bigger spike in the EV sales than even the recent price increases have done (which is why Tesla is now massively discounting - excellent timing for a company whose owner has just thrown $44b into a self made black hole). Just look at what raw materials like copper have done over the last year or so - you don't even need Musk's antics to slow down the market.

      How to tax EVs is an issue, and nobody is talking about it. Tracking you is stage one, and diversity will ensure that at least one method will stick.

      1. Dave Pickles

        Re: Solution in search of a problem

        How about the system used in New Zealand for taxing diesel vehicles.

        NZ has a lot of non-road use for diesel fuel (eg farm vehicles and off-grid generation) so there isn't a fuel tax on it. Instead, diesel vehicle owners have to buy mileage vouchers which are tied to the vehicle's odometer reading, and it is illegal to use a vehicle on the road if its mileage exceeds the voucher figure. The odometer is checked for calibration and tampering as part of their MoT equivalent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          They don't want a simple solution like that here

          I love the idea. Unfortunately the people in Sacramento are listening to the wrong people.

          The CA proposals are rooted in the shyster companies that run the toll roads or the NY "congestion zone" charges. They are trying to wedge in a location and camera tracking system so they can turn large swathes of the public roads into toll roads, where they can essentially auction off road space. This won't work well, as the companies interests ensure that they can bill more if there is traffic, so traffic becomes essential permanent to maximize profits. And they have the Governor's ear, as well as all of the other ones that matter, so no proposal that does not put this in the hands of a private, for profit company are being seriously considered.

          It comes as no surprise that your system is eminently more practical, cheaper, and easier to roll out. They don't want it here. The excuse is usually fraud, though odometer fraud is vanishingly rare in the state. This is just an excuse though. In reality they are pushing for a private, for profit system, with little to no oversight or accountability. One that also requires cameras everywhere, and punishes the most vulnerable while allowing those in higher tax brackets to game the system for their convenience.

          In reality, you could be paying for these mileage vouchers like buying a lotto ticket, or along with your(mandatory) car insurance. It also could just be added onto the charge points, and your car could add the cost of your road tax onto the bill the next time you use a public charge point.

          But instead of the powers that be picking a simple cheap and easy option, they are going for the expensive and Orwellian one. The one where people in Bel Air and the bay area will game to make sure all the money goes to the rich neighborhoods and the poors live with potholes the size of their cars, being taxed out of access to the upper class neighborhoods by invisible walls. Going to a job interview? 28$ congestion fee and 30$ more for parking, unless your car is listed for local parking. The funny thing will be the moment they realize they have been hoisted by their own petard when they try to call a Lyft or Uber and the drivers don't want to show up becuase they will be the ones eating the charges on the way in and out.

          1. thinking ape

            Hobometer

            Odometer tampering is overcome by fitting a government issued, tamper resistant odometer (hubometer) directly on to the wheel. This should match your vehicle reading (within a margin of error)

      2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        Re: Solution in search of a problem

        "Ergo the question: how is this going to be taxed?"

        You will be charged by the mile with peak rates during peak traffic times

    3. Wayland

      Re: Solution in search of a problem

      There is a potential hook up with Disney. The number plates could show Disney promotions most of the time and numbers only when needed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Solution in search of a problem

        The challenge then lies in deciding when the license is needed.

        Running over pedestrians whilst displaying Disney marketing may not go down that well..

        1. Richmond Avenal
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Solution in search of a problem

          "Running over pedestrians whilst displaying Disney marketing may not go down that well.."

          Good job I wasn't drinking any tea, because it would have gone on my keyboard.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Solution in search of a problem

          Running over pedestrians whilst displaying Disney marketing may not go down that well..

          Try a spoonful of sugar.

  3. DrSunshine0104
    Holmes

    I absolutely commented that this would happen when the original article came out on the TheReg. But did I imagine, at least from the description, it would have been so easy? This is almost as embarrassing as the time the governor of my home state claimed a news reporter was a hacker while pressing F12. https://www.theregister.com/2022/02/15/missouri_html_hacking/.

    Someone wrote a toy software and the California government dropped the ball on due diligence and didn't have third-party auditors actually pen test the software. Though, I suppose the saving light is that it is only test bedding the plates.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      No, it's not testbedding any more. As of October, these are in full public use.

    2. fidodogbreath

      Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

      Reviver didn't develop this for California specifically. They're a private company that wants to (a) deploy this widely), and (b) have a monopoly on it. California's 'oversight' probably began and ended with making sure they get all of the DMV revenue that Reviver collects.

      That said -- this product makes no financial sense for anyone other than maybe fleet operators. As an AC pointed out elsewhere, it is the "thin edge of the wedge" that will be used to insert real-time road use taxes -- with copious assurances that GPS tracking of every car at all times would never be used for Big Brother purposes.

      Governments will, over time, make it harder and harder to renew registration any other way to force adoption. Then they will use a "think of the children" crisis to grant law enforcement temporary emergency access to everyone's real-time movements -- followed shortly thereafter by unlimited real-time tracking by LEOs. Again, because of the children.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

        Actually, they get SOME of the money Reviver collects, as the company gets a slice of the DMV fees as well, so we are all subsidizing a fraction of these displays of vanity, but I am also sure there is a kickback going somewhere the other way. I agree that the companies long term plan it to leverage the Vision Zero/Zero Brains crowd to push for congestion charges and mandatory car tracking, at the price of billions and cameras everywhere, all of which will A) not work as advertised and B) come out of the taxpayers pockets one way or another.

        Though until they ban sticky tape, they may find they have trouble with those cameras.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

          Seems unnecessary, all new cars are equipped with GPS and internet connectivity along with plenty of processing power and ample storage so they already know where the car is all the time and I guarantee if the taxman asks the car it will happily rat out the car owner.

          Governments will need to recover the revenue lost from oil based fuel sales. The fairest way would be for the cars to record how much power they use to charge the batteries and apply a tax on that. A mileage tax is less fair as drivers of stupidly oversized SUVs and luxury cars would pay the same as drivers of itsy-bity little cars so is a more probably outcome. Road tolls are the most expensive to administer and are just as unfair as a mileage tax for the same reasons but seems to be popular with some politicians probably due to the greater possibility of kickbacks from industry.

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

            To be fair, road tolls are much more fair than mileage taxes. Mileage taxes hit rural areas (which already have lower mean household incomes and higher costs) much harder than urban areas. Road pricing tends to be the other way (particularly if it is mostly congestion-based).

            However, road tolls mean saying goodbye to privacy.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

              "However, road tolls mean saying goodbye to privacy."

              After fuel taxes, registration and other tax revenue that is supposed to be used for roads, adding tolls is a kick in the teeth. People might be surprised how many transponder readers are dotted here and there away from those toll roads. If anything is said at all about them, it's to govsplain how the data is used to keep track of routes that toll road users take the most. Nothing nefarious, honest.

        2. Alistair
          Windows

          Re: Thin edge of the wedge, indeed

          sticky tape?

          They seem to fall to paintballs more often about here.

    3. Wayland

      No, it's completely impossible that anyone could have for seen this. A number plate controlled over a network by computer is far more secure than a normal one because computers.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    The future

    The future will be e-ink based banknotes that will assume the value equal to the withdrawal amount you set in the app. You will be able to also place your favourite member of the ruling party on the face.

    The transactions will be confirmed through a chip implanted in one's hand or other body part of choosing.

    This is how CBDC is going to work for people wanting to have "cash experience" without actually owning anything.

    I should probably patent it.

    In the other thread someone said you don't have to be rich to file a patent. Can someone tell me how can I patent this with a fiver and no spare time?

    1. Furious Reg reader John

      Re: The future

      You may not have to be rich, but you do need a unique idea and the time to see the process through.

      The idea also needs to become reality before your 20 years of protection expires. After that, anybody can use it without paying you royalties.

      Oh, and by the way, you've told the world about it now, so it is common knowledge and no longer a novel and unique thing that you are trying to patent. The patent would not be granted, or it would be dismissed upon appeal.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: The future

        We both know it is not true. You can patent anything as long as you have deep pockets.

        You can also slightly change a patent and extend it.

        Oh, and by the way, you've told the world about it now, so it is common knowledge and no longer a novel and unique thing that you are trying to patent.

        Organisations that grant patents are blind and deaf, so that doesn't matter.

        The patent would not be granted, or it would be dismissed upon appeal.

        That's just a part of bribe negotiations.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: The future

        >Oh, and by the way, you've told the world about it now, so it is common knowledge and no longer a novel and unique thing that you are trying to patent. The patent would not be granted, or it would be dismissed upon appeal.

        Funny how they accepted the various sewing machine patents, Marconi's radio patent etc.

        Whilst neither the sewing machine or radio were novel, what was novel about Singer's and Marconi's patents was that they were for a working implementation. what is interesting, with the current patent policy (filing without any proof of implementation), it is likely that both Singer and Marconi would fail to get a patent granted because their invention infringes one or more prior non-working patents...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The future

          Singer's patent is often used as an example of how to patent efficiently. Despite having worked out all the complicated mechanics besides, he only patented the hole in the needle. Masterful.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The future

          "Whilst neither the sewing machine or radio were novel, what was novel about Singer's and Marconi's patents was that they were for a working implementation."

          There are design patents that cover the implementation and not the concept. The idea of patenting the hole in the needle for Singer was great. I've seen many patents that are complicated to an extreme to cover up that the actual claim (what is being patented) is nicely obscured. Companies will do that to make it look like they have a patent on an aspect they knew would never get past an examiner.

    2. Wayland

      Re: The future

      No one would invent money which could have it's face value altered remotely. Who would want that? I trust that CBDC would never be like that because they'd never screw us like that. There has never been a form of money like that, like a voucher that can only be spent in one shop and has an expiry date and cannot be transferred to another person. Thankfully no one is able to think such things.

      1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

        Re: The future

        Book Tokens?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The future

          I think that was sarcasm :)

    3. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: The future

      Considering some of the folks mentalities out there and the "think of the children" component of things, I seriously doubt you'll have a choice as to which body part you're putting that chip in. I know what a few males on social media would want to do.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The future

      "In the other thread someone said you don't have to be rich to file a patent."

      If you can figure out the process and do it yourself, it's not that expensive to get a patent. I have a couple and they look really nice on a resume. You have to be rich to defend your patent. If you don't defend you patent after its been obviously violated, you could lose it on those grounds. You also have to gauge the sort of company/entity that is likely to infringe on your patent. The larger the company, the more money it will cost to defend making the time spent getting it misspent. If your idea isn't worth 50mn, shop the idea around while requiring a signed NDA and find a buyer for it. They can patent it if they like and you can insist on getting your name on the patent which is something nice to hang on the wall. Pursing a NDA violation will be much cheaper and more likely to bring in some money.

  5. devin3782

    Yet another example of why writing your application in JavaScript and letting the client handle all the heavy lifting and having a relatively basic API on the server is still a mostly bad idea, you potentially hand out way too many keys to the kingdom especially when they're designed for server to server interaction which this one seems to be considering the level of information its spewing.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Yes, but it is faster to do it this way. You know, "time to market" and all that tommyrot is the perfect corporate answer to the question: "But, is it secure?"

  6. Manolo
    Joke

    Profit!

    1) Change own plate to nemesis' plate.

    2) Go speeding, preferably in an average speed trap.

    optional 3) When caught, say the plates were hacked.

    4) Profit!

  7. Eponymous Bastard
    Devil

    Hack it!

    I'd love to be able to put SMUGCUNT on all the electric car plates whose drivers believe their selfless behaviour is going to save the planet for their spawn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hack it!

      "F*CK U" in the proximity of any police car may prove entertaining.

      :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hack it!

        Just change them to "STOLEN". That should lead to some fun for the driver!

        On second thought, maybe not, this is too close to Swatting!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hack it!

          Nah, that would be "ARMED"..

  8. jake Silver badge

    Nobody, and I mean nobody ...

    ... could have predicted this debacle. NOBODY!

    Except the collective wisdom of the ElReg commentardariat, of course.

    1. General Purpose

      Re: Nobody, and I mean nobody ...

      For extra ponts, change the plate to NOBODY. "Nobody is now proceeing north at 105 mph..."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny thing is, not only did we know this would happen, we warned them what would happen next.

    Since any of the existing plates can be hacked, and a hacked plate is indistinguishable from an updated or unhacked plate, the police would need to stop and verify the plate against the vehicles VIN code when ever one is spotted. At least unless they issue a new plate that is so different it can obviously be spotted on the road as an updated plate. They won't of course, so anyone driving around with one of these plates is automatically suspect.

    How long before the police make the news for pulling over brown people for "plate checks"?

    And the alternative is that you'd have to redesign and replace EVERY smart plate every time a critical exploit came out. And at the end of the day it's just a matter of time before someone builds a fake one with a raspberry pi that looks the same anyway. (of course any body shop with a 3d printer could knock out convincing fake metal plates with an old street sign blank and a couple coats of paint).

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Funny thing is, not only did we know this would happen, we warned them what would happen next.

      They've got that covered. Programmable VIN stampings are coming.

      I josh, of course, but I can't see why that's any more stupid than software defined number plates.

      -A.

  10. martinusher Silver badge

    A partincularly pointless device

    I've seen a couple of these plates about. I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would want them -- they're as ugly as sin -- much less actually pay for them.

    This is an outstanding example of "just because you can doesn't automatically mean its a good idea". As far as I can tell their only use is to brag about how much money you have. (Note -- I live in an area where there a lot of rich people. They like to keep a low profile -- their vehicles may ooze "top of the line" but its invariable an understated "top of the line".)

    1. NeilPost

      Re: A partincularly pointless device

      I can’t see ANY reason why any legislature would have approved their use and made them legal. They serve zero purpose..

      James Bond may want a set for his Aston Martin DB5, though Q Branch has an analogue version of this working in 1964 on Goldfinget.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: A partincularly pointless device

        I had it on a Corgi toy version.

        -A.

  11. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
    WTF?

    How long before some joker gets personalised plates called STOLEN? I suppose that's best left to someone who enjoys pain.

    Anyway: some questions:

    a) My turn of the century Ford has this alarm that goes off if I open the bonnet without unlocking the vehicle first. How difficult/simple is it for the vehicle owner to do something that inadvertently changes the plates to STOLEN in mid flight? The cops in my part of the world shoot first and ask questions later, and other problems. (Various police ministers have encouraged officers to "shoot to kill", etc.)

    b) Can the e-ink plates be disabled by application of a little hammer, small rock found next to the road, or strong electromagnet?

    c) Can the techno plates be removed and replaced with analog ones obtained from another car in the area / supplied by the miscreant?

  12. Wayland

    { Curly Brackets }

    So many of the worlds problems could be solved by banning curly brackets. All this code and data written in JAVA and JASON could simply be filtered out. You'd have to write it in BASIC though.

    1. Mr Larrington
      Pirate

      Re: { Curly Brackets }

      ITYM Fortran. Albeit that a Real Programmer can write Fortran programs in *any* language.

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: { Curly Brackets }

      Or Pascal. (* comment *) was always equivalent to { comment }.

      -A.

  13. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "we were super interested"

    Thank God you weren't merely "very interested".

    Anyway: e-Ink plates? Can't see that becoming legal in the UK.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Thank God you weren't merely "very interested"."

      Yeah, the overuse of superlatives has result in people now saying "super super" because just one super isn't enough!

      I suppose that would be a super-superlative :-(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Super laxative?

  14. bernmeister

    OK thats enough IT

    That is enough to make e-ink plates not viable. You cant ban them but you can make users aware that they are not a good idea.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone in the UK did this years ago.

    ... Caused quite a kerfuffle in official circles as a car just disappeared on a road they were trialling ANPR on. Got as far as confirming someone was changing plates between cameras. They never found who.

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