Nokias can hack banks, car radios get free Sky and more daft tech rumours

Here's some of our favourite examples of technology rumours, gossip and Chinese whispers that are completely, 100 per cent true, honest -- some bloke in a pub told us.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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"If you type 'Google' into Google, you can break the Internet. That's totally true -- we saw it on the telly." It's that easy to pass on a rumour, even if it's dafter than a badger in a hat, and our old friend technology has given rise to a host of rumours, urban myths and other ludicrous assertions.

A few good new ones have come our way recently, so here are some of our favourite examples of technology Chinese whispers that are completely, 100 per cent true, honest -- some bloke in a pub told us.

The Nokia 1100 hacks bank accounts

In 2009, the venerable Nokia 1100 became a bankrobber -- it never hurt nobody, it just loved to live that way and it loved to steal your money. That was the claim of security consultant Ultrascan, which described how the 1100 could be hacked to intercept other people's text messages.

The 1100 was released in 2003. It was a dead simple, cheap phone that had a torch built in -- presumably for seeing in the dark while tunnelling into bank vaults. It was claimed that a certain batch of phones manufactured in Nokia's Bochum factory in Germany could be programmed to receive messages intended for other numbers, allowing you to intercept messages authorising bank transactions.

As a result, phones from the supposedly affected batch were on sale for silly money. Heck, there's one on eBay right now for £10,000.

Status: Almost certainly false. Ultrascan's claims have never been substantiated. But while it's unlikely that the 1100 has actually robbed any banks, it may have parted a few gullible wannabe wrong'uns from their wonga.

MP3s can unlock your car

A team of US car security boffins reckons it can hack into your car via weak points in the onboard computer systems' software. A tech-savvy carjacker can access the On-Board Diagnostics port, which engineers use to check how your engine is performing, and take control of the door locks and ignition.

Thieves don't even need to get their hands on your car to get their hands on your car. A team from the Universities of California and Washington reckons it's hacked into motors' firmware via malicious code secreted in an MP3.

Status: Unknown. The claims have been presented to the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Electronic Vehicle Controls and Unintended Acceleration in the US, but are yet to be published.

Ford car radios get you free Sky

In November 2006, 205 car stereos were stolen in Wales in three days -- and almost all of them were stolen from Ford cars. The crime wave swept across Britain, thieves targeting Fords for their stereos.

The criminal fraternity had somehow become convinced that the radio in a Ford contained a chip that could get you free Sky TV. The chip could be added to Sky set-top boxes and get free access to satellite channels.

Status: False. Snopes reckons the rumour began because Ford offered a Sirius satellite radio as an optional extra in selected cars, confusing the criminally stupid.

SIM cards from traffic lights make free phone calls

In late 2010, the Johannesburg Road Agency in South Africa discovered that thieves were stealing new traffic lights. Four hundred of its 600 new GPRS-equipped traffic lights had been hit by the start of this year, with tea leaves half-inching the SIM cards inside to make free calls.

Status: True! Not only were the SIMs able to make calls, but the hapless highway-huggers had to fork out thousands of rand to phone networks to cover the cost. Ouch.

Mobile phones blow up petrol stations, aeroplanes, eggs and your brain

Who'd have thought the humble mobile phone is not a wonderfully useful modern convenience right there in your pocket, but in fact, a weapon of mass destruction? Mobiles emit electromagnetic waves -- all electronic devices do -- and phones emit a negligible amount of radiation compared to, say, a microwave. Yet mobiles are blamed for all manner of radioactive destruction.

Status: False -- so far. There's no evidence that a mobile phone has ever caused a petrol station to explode, a plane to crash, an egg to become super-tasty, or your brain to melt. But research continues, so keep that tin-foil hat handy just in case.


Holding an iPhone 4 in your left hand stops it making calls

As if a company as respected as Apple would release its flagship product with such a glaring flaw! Oh hang on...

Status: Sadly true.

Has a friend of a friend ever managed any of these crazy schemes? What's your favourite technological urban myth? Whisper it in the comments or on our Facebook wall.