‘New Way of Stealing Cars’: Hacking Them With A Laptop

retroworks writes: The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled), CBS and Marketwatch all lead the morning with stories about the newest method of stealing (late model) cars. No need for hacking off the ignition switch and touching the wires to create a spark (controversial during broadcasts in 1970s television crime criticized for “teaching people to steal cars”). Thieves now use the laptop to access the automobile’s computer system, and voila. “Police and car insurers say thieves are using laptop computers to hack into late-model cars’ electronic ignitions to steal the vehicles, raising alarms about the auto industry’s greater use of computer controls. The discovery follows a recent incident in Houston in which a pair of car thieves were caught on camera using a laptop to start a 2010 Jeep Wrangler and steal it from the owner’s driveway. Police say the same method may have been used in the theft of four other late-model Wranglers and Cherokees in the city. None of the vehicles have been recovered.” The article concludes with the example filmed of a break-in in Houston. The thief, says the NICB’s Mr. Morris, likely used the laptop to manipulate the car’s computer to recognize a signal sent from an electronic key the thief then used to turn on the ignition. The computer reads the signal and allows the key to turn. “We have no idea how many cars have been broken into using this method,” Mr. Morris said. “We think it is minuscule in the overall car thefts but it does show these hackers will do anything to stay one step ahead.” No details on modifying the program to run on Android or iPhone — there’s not yet “an app for that.”


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