Flipper Zero device with Malwarebytes logo on the display

Canada revisits decision to ban Flipper Zero

In February 2024 the Canadian government announced plans to ban the sale of the Flipper Zero, mainly because of its reported use to steal cars.

The Flipper Zero is a portable device that can be used in penetration testing with a focus on wireless devices and access control systems.

If that doesn’t help you understand what it can do, a few examples from the news might help.

Flipper Zero made headlines in October because versions running third-party firmware could be used to crash iPhones running iOS 17 (since resolved in iOS 17.2).

Later, reporters found information that car thieves could use the Flipper Zero to intercept, record, and sometimes mimic the signal of a vehicle’s key fob, and if the car was in a garage, the signal of the garage door opener too.

Importantly, this only works on older car models that use fixed numeric codes for their fobs. Not on cars that use rolling codes, which change the numeric code transmitted from a key fob with each use. As a result, car thieves continued to ignore the Flipper Zero in favour of key fob signal boosters and keyless repeaters which are a lot more powerful.

Oddly enough, the car thieving option was mentioned as the main reason for putting a ban on the Flipper Zero in Canada. Although Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne said:

“We are banning the importation, sale and use of consumer hacking devices, like flippers, used to commit these crimes.”

Very recently, a group of security researchers presented a series of vulnerabilities in the widely used Dormakaba Saflok electronic RFID locks. This vulnerability impacts over 3 million doors on over 13,000 properties in 131 countries, mostly in hotels.

Reportedly, an attacker only needs to read one keycard from the property to perform the attack against any of its doors. This keycard can be from their own room, or even an expired keycard taken from the express checkout collection box.

Any device capable of reading and writing or emulating MIFARE Classic cards is suitable for this attack. MIFARE is a contactless card technology introduced in 1994. It’s primarly used for transport passes, but its technological capabilities quickly made it one of the most popular smart cards for storing data and providing access control.

One device that can be used for this attack is the Flipper Zero, but an attacker could just as easily use a Proxmark 3 or any NFC capable Android phone.

After an appeal by the security community, Canada now looks like it’s going to move forward with measures to restrict the use of devices like Flipper Zero to legitimate actors only. The specifics will be revealed after deliberation with Canadian companies, online retailers, and the automotive industry.


None of the technology housed within the Flipper Zero is very new, all it does is combine multiple functions into one handheld device. We have never seen any officially confirmed cases of theft using a Flipper Zero. If you want to ban something that helps against car theft, look at keyless repeaters, on the market for a host of car brands and which have no other purpose.

For all the vulnerabilities we described, updates came out that fixed the issues and made the world a safer place, although the patches haven’t been applied everywhere—it’s a lot of work to update all the locks in a hotel, and it’s not feasible to update the fob systems of older cars. Nevertheless, the research by pen testers has led to security improvements, so why would we want to take away their tools?

If we have peaked your interest to buy a Flipper Zero, we urge you to be careful. Due to limited availability there are scammers active that will take your money and send nothing in return.

You can learn more about Flipper Zero by listening to our Lock and Code podcast below. In December 2023, host David Ruiz had a long conversation in with Cooper Quintin, senior public interest technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation—and Flipper Zero owner—about what the Flipper Zero can do, what it can’t do, and whether governments should get involved in the regulation of the device.


Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.