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Ford Upgrades SYNC To Keep Virtual Bad Guys Out Of Your Car

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MyFord Touch

MyFord Touch

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MyFord Touch

MyFord Touch

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2011 Ford Edge

2011 Ford Edge

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2011 Ford Edge

2011 Ford Edge

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The internet is a pretty magnificent thing. It allows us to stay in touch with family and friends. It helps small companies to do business around the globe. And of course, it brought you here. But as the web grows, consuming every square inch of our daily lives, it brings numerous threats -- namely, hacking and identity theft. A handful of upgrades to the SYNC telematics system aim to minimize those threats by putting some distance between Ford owners and the baddies.

SYNC's upgrades come as a suite of add-ons like firewalls and password controls, which will launch during the 2011 model-year on models like the 2011 Ford Edge. For example, Ford's new MyFord Touch teams with SYNC to create a wi-fi network in the car. New upgrades to SYNC will create a default firewall for the network, keeping nearby nosey-parkers from seeing and accessing that network.

Other notable additions include locking pre-programmed destinations behind a four-digit PIN. So, for example, if someone were to swipe your keys and nab your car, they wouldn't be able to access you list of favorite places -- like, say, your home address. Which is good, since the crook in question would likely have your home keys, too.

But the upgrades aren't all good news. Case in point: SYNC's "encrypted jukebox", which uses digital-rights management (DRM) software to lock down the music you play in your car. DRM is almost always a terrible idea. Companies say it's designed to protect your content, to keep others from stealing your collection of music, but honestly, having someone download our entire music collection onto an iPod is the least of our worries in a break-in. In fact, DRM is really designed to make customers dependent on a particular line of products. Apple tried this approach for years on iTunes, but finally backed down when it became apparent that people who had paid good money for music wanted to be able to play that music anywhere they liked -- even on devices that weren't iPods.

Ford's system is almost identical to Apple's old one for the iPod and iTunes. As the company says in its press release: "The Ford proprietary encryptions protect any songs saved to the system's digital jukebox โ€“ which can hold up to 2,400 tracks โ€“ from being moved or copied to another device." In other words, any music you download using SYNC is stuck in your car. Which is, of course, ridiculous. Not to mention insidious and offensive.

In all, we're excited by these upgrades to SYNC. As Ford notes in the release below, 11,000,000 Americans fell prey to identity theft last year -- and ominously, roughly one-third of of those instances happened by thieves on the go, using mobile phones. Given that sort of portability, protecting in-car wi-fi networks is more important than ever. But please, please, Ford: back off the DRM. You're doing so well these days. Don't make us hate you.

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FORD OFFERS SECURITY FEATURES TO PROTECT OWNERS' PERSONAL INFORMATION AS CARS, INTERNET CONVERGE

DEARBORN, Mich., March 8, 2010 โ€“ With the rapid convergence of in-car technology and the Internet, Ford Motor Company said today it is offering a suite of security features to protect the personal information of millions of Ford owners from the threat of computer hackers and viruses.

Protecting customers is critical as Ford moves to the forefront of in-car personal technology. Ford's popular SYNC system allows owners to connect digital media players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to their vehicle's entertainment system and operate them with voice commands. The mobile phone also is a gateway to a number of Internet "cloud" services through SYNC's Traffic, Directions and Information application that provides turn-by-turn directions, business searches and more.


 
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