European Model Cars Easily Unlocked With Hacked Radios

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BMW 3 Sedan
Source: BMW

With increased technological advancement comes increased technological vulnerabilities. This is evident with the numerous number of flaws that are discovered every day by researchers. European researchers have found another flaw that can be exploited by hackers in the tech world, car hacking.

European Researchers, German Group ADAC, found a vulnerability that allows hackers to start cars and unlocks them, by tricking them into thinking that there is a key fob nearby. Many of the advanced cars can be unlocked by simply having the key fob nearby, and that seems to be now working against the technology’s favour.

In the research, cars from 19 different manufacturers were found to be at risk of what is called the amplifier attack. This is a technique where hackers use a simple radio amplifier to help themselves gain access to the cars, reports say.

The attack however still requires that the perpetrator has the key fob and access to the car. A radio amplifier can be placed near the fob and the receiver near the car. The amplifier, as the name suggests, is able to amp up the signal of the key fob which means hackers can unlock the car at least 90 meters away, the research points out. They also indicate that the hack is as simple as it can be, in stark contrast to some of the modern car hacks which require software manipulation to get access.

The tactic that the ADAC German team showed was initially shown by a Swedish team back in 2011. But the group say that the method has now become even cheaper and simpler to implement. The Swedish spent a lot of money to gather up their equipment as compared to the German team which gathered theirs for a mere $230. They said the devices were not too difficult to make, but because of security reasons, they could not reveal any of the details on how they had done it.

ADAC found that 24 car models from 19 different manufacturers were vulnerable to the attack. Apparently the models are all European cars, with a few exceptions of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Kia Optima, and Audi A4 cars which are sold in the US also. The only car the researchers failed to unlock was the BMW i3, though they did manage to start it.

According to the research, there seems to be no way to fix the problem at the moment, and drivers should keep an eye out for any suspicious activity near their cars.