Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Hungaroring, 2020

Williams cancel plans for augmented reality launch after app is “hacked”

2021 F1 season

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Williams has cancelled plans to launch its FW43B using an augmented reality app today, claiming it had been “hacked prior to launch”.

The ‘Williams Racing AR Launch 2021’ app has been pulled from the Apple App Store and Android Google Play store.

The team did not confirm details of the hack, but it is believed to have occured within two days of the app being made available on the Apple App Store on Tuesday.

The launch was originally due to go ahead at 2pm today. Williams intends to distribute images of the new car instead.

“Williams Racing planned to reveal its 2021 challenger, the FW43B, via an augmented reality app later today,” said the team in a statement. “However, sadly, because the app was hacked prior to launch, this will no longer be possible. We have subsequently removed the app from both the Apple App Store and Android Google Play store.

“We were very much looking forward to sharing this experience with our fans, particularly during this difficult time when being able to bring in-person experiences directly to our fans is sadly not possible. We can only apologise that this has not been possible.”

George Russell said the disruption to the team’s plans was a “massive shame”.

“I’ve seen the app and it was going to be an awesome experience for you guy. Whoever did this, seriously not cool.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “Williams cancel plans for augmented reality launch after app is “hacked””

  1. What a shame. Was looking forward to this!
    Amongst all the launches, this was going to be the most creative, even if the end result would be underwhelming.

    Hopefully they can still release an AR version of the car in the future, even if it’s after the proper launch.

  2. 2021 and Williams is still a joke

  3. I hadn’t even tried to download the app, but I really think this is a huge shame since the idea was really neat.

  4. Only Facts!
    5th March 2021, 13:37

    Pokemon Go style of augmented reality?

    Like a F1 car in my living room?

    I have to see that!

  5. What is the point of hacking this app? How does it benefit the hacker in any way to not have this launch happen via this augmented reality app. Motivelessly malignant, I think this is called.

    1. They used the term “hack” very loosely. What happened really is that it was “datamined”. When they released the app, all the files of the car were already in. What people did was simply extract them to take a look. And that’s about it. Nothing malignant about it, just curious people. Certainly not a reason to shut down a whole event over it

    2. Williams are using weasel words. The app wasn’t “hacked”, it was datamined to find information about the 2021 car prior to launch. It’s Williams’ own fault really.

      1. Absolutely agree. If they bundle all the 3D renders of the car within the app what do they think will happen. These assets should have been downloaded from an external repository at the time of launch.

        1. Such an unbelievably dumb idea. I didn’t know they had built a 3d model. I thought it was going to be something along the lines of panoramic shots, and let the hardware do the rest.

      2. F1JohnS (@)
        5th March 2021, 23:38

        Can’t see much gain to datamining since all the pictures I’ve seen look like it’s mostly last years car with the new livery plastered on top. The rear floor treatment for instance doesn’t feature the new shape required.
        Most teams have simply painted their old car in new livery and teased a few bits for launch, we’ll only really see the 2021 cars in Bahrain at testing.
        Suppose someone could be trying to get the drop on the colour scheme ahead of launch, but seriously is that really worth anything in cash or technical terms for a scoop on current tail end Charlie’s new livery?

    3. That’s mostly what hacking is about. Just ruining things for other people.

      1. Nothing was ruined in this instance. To think that you can upload an app full of anticipated information to a public app store, and NOT have that information leaked, is just plain incompetent.

        1. Nothing was ruined in this instance.

          Yes it was. A lot of people would enjoy this app. They ruined it completely.
          Hacking or datamining to destroy a nice gesture is sick.

          1. Williams could’ve continued with the launch, nothing stopped them from doing that. The app hasn’t been tampered with in some way. If you want to apportion blame, then look to Williams.

    4. @f1frog Sadly, some people hack things because they can.

    5. Because the hacker wants to expose the company’s incompetence. He succeeded

      1. you’re so full of helpful info. you should work for williams and show them the errors of their ways. you’ve obv got all the answers & solutions.
        get stuffed

  6. It would be great if F1 co ordinate this kind of idea after all the car launches where we could walk round the cars in VR. Pick 2 cars and look at them side by side. A modern digital age development to the slider feature on this site.

  7. Having your car full of intelectual property in AR is risky. It seems the story is a cover up to avoid telling the truth and look nice.

  8. I think they failed to be ready and the easy way out is become a victim

  9. A mobile App cannot be hacked after it was uploaded to the Apple and Google App Stores. Unlike a public website or web application there’s no possibility to modify the application’s code after it has been uploaded. So what could have happend is:

    1. The App has been compromised or infected with malware before it was uploaded to the Stores. Which means that either Williams or the development company contracted for making this App do have a more serious security problem because someone gained access to their infrastructure. If that would be the case the press info would sound differently.

    2. They noticed that things are visible in this App which should not be visible or not with a high resolution.

    3. They weren’t ready in time or the app just didn’t work reliably.

    1. @tim-crimson Apps can definitely be hacked after upload to the app stores. All it takes is for there to be one weakness in the security of the app. Since that is the most common way for any program to be hacked, it’s well within the realms of possibility for someone to hack it (especially if it was done for practise rather than with serious intent).

      I would not expect the launch material to have been leaked, as a skilful implementation would not have made that available until right before launch time.

      1. @alianora-la-canta What I meant is: the code of the app cannot be modified by a third party after the app has been uploaded to an app store.

        1. @tim-crimson The code of the app cannot be modified, but hacking is not only modifying code.

          1. But in this case, as @tim-crimson mentions, all the code, including a rather detailed model of the car, was seemingly indeed in the app, and extracted from it, which is what Williams call ‘hacking’ – not quite sure how it was extracted, but hack does seem to be a bit avoiding saying ‘we were naive’ @alianora-la-canta; it’s probably true the better way would have to upload the model only just before the launch (but then: how would they be sure no one would have an Alpine-like disaster in getting it loaded at that time?! And when it’s in there, securing is hard as long as it is also going to be rendered as an AR model on the screen)

            Still, it definitely ruined the experience for Williams and a lot of fans, and probably means this won’t be tried any time soon, which certainly is a shame.

    2. @tim-crimson Might’ve just decompiled it and leaked the info?

    3. I think it’s number 3.

    4. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th March 2021, 17:40

      @tim-crimson 4) They retrieved the information inside the app.

      This happens a lot actually

  10. Back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s where everything was “because a hacker”… :-)

  11. So that’s why my app was stuck on the “welcome screen”…

  12. Sounds to me like perhaps the renders were a little too accurate and someone found a smart way to gain a significant amount of value from the various measurements contained within the data set.

  13. So “hackers” get to see 3D car, but honest people get middle finger.

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