Canada’s intent to ban the Flipper Zero wireless tool over car thefts is, on the one hand, an everyday example of poorly researched government action. But it may also be a not-so-subtle peek into the harm misinformation online can cause by leading to said government action.
The Government of Canada recently hosted a national summit on combatting vehicle theft, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne proudly declared immediate actions being taken to ban devices used to steal vehicles by wirelessly bypassing keyless entry, the Flipper Zero being specifically named as one such device.
And yet, defeating a rolling code keyless entry system is a trick a device like the Flipper Zero simply cannot pull off. (What cars have such a system? Any car made in roughly the last thirty years, for a start.)
The Flipper Zero tool makes all kinds of useful wireless exploration and interactions accessible and fun. But it’s become prominently featured in videos that gleefully purport to show it doing something shocking (and likely staged), followed by making a YouTube face at the camera. Then it’s cut, upload, and watch the clicks roll in.
We’ve talked about how such videos are a very bad look, even if they’re hoaxes done for the lulz. Flipper Zero got banned from Amazon for being a “card skimming device” last year. There was a time when the Flipper Zero was going for crazy prices on eBay. We were going to provide a going rate, but they don’t even show up in search results anymore. Government action like this is another example of how a bad rap can make it harder for folks to obtain useful tools.
Ironically, owning a Flipper Zero and exploring the world of wireless data and communication is a great way to learn that many modern devices and protocols are so much better than their predecessors. For example, one can demonstrate how contactless payment with a wireless device like a mobile phone or Apple Watch is more secure and exposes far less information than tapping the physical card.