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The Audi R8 demo car.

If you’re an aftermarket guy and you get an Audi R8, what would be the most important mod you make?

Sure, you might want some really high-end wheels, maybe customize the interior with extra carbon fiber parts and some gadgets, etc. But that shouldn’t be first on your priority list. Number one is protection!

As in a Viper 5204V with the DBALL interface plus DSM250 SmartStart module for your phone. Because when you have a six-figure vehicle that’s sexier than your wife, you want to ward off covetous thieves.

On display at the Top Gear Live show in the UK, the R8 distinguished itself from the crowd, even with its lowered stance of about 30mm, thanks to KW coilovers. Custom-made Rotiform SNA 3-piece wheels (9″x20″ front and a whopping 12″x20″ rear) really set off the R8 and custom carbon-fiber mirrors give it an added slick touch.

On the one hand, show attendees could watch the Top Gear Stunt Team for daredevil acts — they set a record with a 720-degree, double loop-the-loop on a motorcycle — while on the other they could observe the serene beauty of the R8 equipped with SmartStart technology. What better way to bring driver and his beloved ride closer together than with a real two-way electronic connection?

To see the motorcycle stunt, click here.

Remember the story we brought you in early July about BMWs disappearing (being stolen actually) in less than three minutes?

Well if you don’t, here’s a quick recap — car thieves in the U.K. used an over-the-counter key fob to bypass the security systems of several BMWs in a matter of minutes. The fob was able to deactivate the luxury cars’ current settings so criminals could make a quick getaway and not leave a trace of evidence that the car was stolen.

Worried that BMW doesn’t care if your $30,000 investment is growing feet and running off in the middle of the night? Well rest easy, because BMW is making some serious changes to ensure that your luxury vehicle is protected.

In a statement, BMW made it clear that they want to ensure the protection of their customer’s vehicles: “All our cars meet all security standards and regulations, but as responsible manufacturers we are looking at ways of mitigating against this new kind of attack.”

The automaker said that actions they’re taking include enhancing the security on models previous to the 2011 series, and contacting owners to ensure they get the necessary work taken care of on their vehicle.

Don’t be a victim of this high-tech crime — replace that standard security system and protect your $30,000-plus investment!

Remember that we told you back in July that there’s a lesson here for car owners: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

We asked our engineers and experts here for the best tips on just what these criminals are doing and how car owners can fight back against them.

They told us:

Number 1.      In order to steal a car, the thief doesn’t need to reprogram the key right away. The criminal just needs to bypass the vehicle immobilizer quickly using potentially bulkier equipment — and drive away. Key reprogramming can be dealt with later at a secure location with less time constraint (let’s say 15-30 minutes).

Number 2.      BMW security has a hole: It employs a relatively weak, 48-bit Hitag system that can be hacked in under 3 minutes using computer hardware costing less than $10,000. There is also a known weakness in the randomization of the security key and its dependency on the CAS (one of the vehicle’s modules) dump. Such a dump is available over OBD connector. In other words, all components for a system are available on the Internet and putting the system together does not require a lot of technical skill.

Our experts were quite sure that BWM engineers are well aware of these shortcomings and are working on tighter the security and probably on upgrading their encryption method as well. That will address BMW’s security issue — but also will make any key-cracking job harder.

Number 3.      In order to deploy such a system, one needs to bypass the vehicle alarm system. The OEM one-way security is susceptible to jamming while more sophisticated two-way systems provide real-time status feedback and have additional sensors, etc.

Get connected to your vehicle and get ahead of the criminals: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

Watch a BMW go in under 3 minutes and a BBC report here:

BMW Owners Hit by High-Tech Theft

See the whole quick-as-lightening BMW theft video below:

Handout photo from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

We’ve posted quite a bit on this blog about the much-predicted driverless car revolution, but let’s take the debate even one step further.

And even a little … scarier as well.

This recent piece by the Brisbane Times says that BAE engineers in Britain are researching pilotless planes — the article even says they already have prototypes already flying over the U.K. skies. The egg heads call the technology the “future of air travel.”

Come fly the robot-driven skies! How safe do you feel about that?

It’s one thing to share the highway next to a bucket of bolts with a robot driver — but to take the the airways in the hands of a computer pilot tens of thousands of miles above the ground, that’s something else. There’s definitely a lot of people who are going to take a long time to get comfortable with that.

Don’t get us wrong, there are a LOT of safety features involved. Cameras on the pilotless planes patrol the heavens for any possible dangers and can spot other aircraft.

Like driverless cars, the robot-driven planes also use sensors to scan the skies and rely on advanced algorithms running in onboard computers.However, these systems have to be extremely intelligent — a lot more goes in to sustaining safe air travel.

“The level of autonomy can be gradually increased,” Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, engineering director of systems and strategy at BAE Systems, told the Brisbane Times. “The system flies by itself on a preprogrammed course until it detects something is wrong. Then it suggests maneuvers that an operator using a laptop on the ground can confirm or reject.”

Is this genius … or something that Lex Luthor invented?

See more video below:

Every … second … counts, case in point: Hackers stealing a BMW 1M stolen without keys — in 3 minutes!

There’s a lesson here for all car owners: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

This viral video from the UK posted below blew up in the last week, and has already landed half a million hits since July 3.

In it, the hackers exploit a security loophole, using gizmos that plug into the vehicle’s OBD port — then programming the blank key fobs and taking off in their new ill-gotten cars.

According to this recent Jalopnik piece posted on MSNBC’s Technolog, the car is entered, “either via nearby RF jammers that block the fob lock signal from reaching the car (preventing owners from securing their vehicles) or, more crudely, by breaking a window. … In cases of the window break, the thieves seem to be exploiting a gap in the car’s internal ultrasonic sensor system to avoid tripping the alarm.”

When the thieves get in — they hack into the vehicle key fob’s digital ID so that they can program a different fob to interact with the car. The hackers make that work by first connecting some kind of device to the soon-to-be stolen vehicle’s OBD-II connector, the MSNBC post said.

Now listen up, Viper fans — you can protect yourselves and make sure that you don’t suffer from the same super-swift car theft.

We asked our engineers and experts here for the best tips on just what these criminals are doing and how car owners can fight back against them.

They told us:

Number 1.      In order to steal a car, the thief doesn’t need to reprogram the key right away. The criminal just needs to bypass the vehicle immobilizer quickly using potentially bulkier equipment — and drive away. Key reprogramming can be dealt with later at a secure location with less time constraint (let’s say 15-30 minutes).

Number 2.      BMW security has a hole: It employs a relatively weak, 48-bit Hitag system that can be hacked in under 3 minutes using computer hardware costing less than $10,000. There is also a known weakness in the randomization of the security key and its dependency on the CAS (one of the vehicle’s modules) dump. Such a dump is available over OBD connector. In other words, all components for a system are available on the Internet and putting the system together does not require a lot of technical skill.

Our experts were quite sure that BWM engineers are well aware of these shortcomings and are working on tighter the security and probably on upgrading their encryption method as well. That will address BMW’s security issue — but also will make any key-cracking job harder.

Number 3.      In order to deploy such a system, one needs to bypass the vehicle alarm system. The OEM one-way security is susceptible to jamming while more sophisticated two-way systems provide real-time status feedback and have additional sensors, etc.

Get connected to your vehicle and get ahead of the criminals: Thieves will always find a way to get into your car – what you need is real-time awareness of when/where someone tries to violate your vehicle.

See the whole quick-as-lightening BMW theft video below: