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Hacker Disables Cars via the Web – Our Remote Controlled Life

vw-remote This is what remote controlled toy cars looked like when I was a kid.  Yes, the control box was connected to the car with a 3-4feet cable… not exactly the level of freedom you get with today’s wireless models.

But it was fun, nevertheless.  I wonder if 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez had a toy car when he was a kid.  He seems to have found one now.. let me correct that: he seems to have found over 100 remote controlled cars to play with.

The laid-off employee of Texas Auto Center sought revenge and he found it in the Webtech Plus system, which allows dealers to remotely switch off ignition, sound the honk …etc. in the cars of non-paying customers.  Our hacker immobilized over 100 cars and triggered their honks in the middle of the night… probably almost as much fun as a crazy SXSW party :-)

On second thought, it probably wasn’t fun for the drivers whose cars would not start going to work, or whose only remedy against a shrieking honk at midnight was to remove the car battery.  But at least they were aware of the presence of the remote device… unlike students and families of Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania (has Lower Merion just become the most famous school district in the US?).  The Spy Cam District’s victims had no idea their homes could be monitored using the school issued laptops.  (And the school district blew their chances of becoming a hit Reality TV show…)

pge-smart-meterTalk about remote sensors: I had no idea of the extended capabilities of the smart meter PG&E, the local utility has installed recently.  These smart meters were all about remote reporting of consumption, and somehow the utility company forgot to tell us they came equipped with a wireless switch to shut off electricity supply.

Shall I go on?   I’m not sure I even want to know how many aspects of our lives can be digitally controlled… all in the name of progress, but dangerous when falling in the wrong hands. :-(

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Has SXSW Peaked?

How do I know, when I’m not even there?  By reading what others say.  For starters, here’s Jolie O’Dell who attends this year’s conference:

Too many people, not enough tech.

…non-technical people aren’t here to learn; they’re here for self-congratulation and mutual masturbation. People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill.

This show isn’t fun, and I won’t be coming back.

For contrast, non-attendee Danny Brown says: Why I’m Not Missing SxSW.  Dennis Howlett chimes in: The not attending SXSW grump report Yes, Dennis is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, but he has a point, and he does not seem to be alone.

I dropped by at the Cloud Connect conference yesterday (yes, dear organizers, I sneaked in with my badge from the previous event hosted by SAP’s CEOs, as your registration closed early.)  From the full house (standing room only) at Geoffrey Moore’s session I tweeted:

So are all the workabees @ #ccevent while the party types went to #SXSW?

Chirag Mehta picked up on my teasing Geoffrey Moore:

Well, all iPhone folks are at #SXSW RT @ZoliErdos: Geoffrey Moore needs to update his speech- said look at your Blackberries LOL #ccevent

You probably get the drift by now… but here’s Jeremy Pepper spelling it out for you: I Don’t Do SXSWi

For the past few years, I keep hearing the same thing about SXSWi:

  • It’s spring break for social media
  • It’s a week long party
  • It’s one night after the other of bars and alcohol
  • It’s great networking
  • I go every year, and make my agency pay for it no matter what because it’s a great party (this said to me by a former boss when I asked what the value is there – notice nothing about actual work, though).

I rarely hear “it’s a great event for my company/agency to reach the right people for product A, B or C”. It’s always about the drinking.

… take a step back and think of this: can you justify missing Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday to your boss or client? And, well, the rest of the week is a wash also if you’re hungover.

And, as a sage executive said to me about CES: there’s going to be a bad day of reckoning for social media. Corporations are going to ask for ROI, and going to party is not ROI.

Sour grapes?  I don’t think so.  But back to the question on how I know SXSW has peaked?  Because declaring non-participant status is becoming trendy.  This would have been unthinkable last year.  So my prediction for next year: there will be even more : “why I am not going” declarations, and the year after SXSWI will be “uncool”.  The trendsetters move on to another party conference :-)

Image by Hugh MacLeod, who calls it the annual 5-day drunken orgy (which he is attending, btw….)