People have been a little nervous about wireless car doors and their controls ever since they first appeared. Back when we stuck with ultra-simple key dongles this wasn’t really a problem, but now that we’re unlocking and starting our cars with high-tech biometrics and sensors – not to mention developing better hacking equipment – security flaws are starting to emerge.
Just ask ADAC, a German auto club that decided to give hackers free reign over a variety of car doors. The white hat hackers quickly settled on an amplifier attack, which basically takes the signal that your key dongle emits and blasts it up to 11. This way, the key button can be remotely activated to unlock a car, say parked in the parking lot below your office building, or out in front of your house.
Once the doors are unlocked, today’s modern push-to-start ignition systems didn’t pose much trouble for the hackers at all, letting them start up the cars and drive away with almost no tricks. This worked for not one or two models, but for around 25 different car models in all, including BMWs, Fords, Kias, Toyotas, and Audis. The auto tech equipment to handle such widespread hacking? It costs around $225 and you can get the components pretty much anywhere.
Okay, now that we’ve got you worried, it’s time for the bad news: There’s not much you can do to stop this sort of hacking, other than buy a sheath or box with Faraday cage properties to store your keys in whenever you aren’t using them (some people also suggest putting them in the freezer).
It’s up to carmakers to ultimately solve this problem, and so far they aren’t interested in adding any extra security features to car doors. Hopefully the publicity will change their mind. Until it does, comfort yourself with the knowledge that $225 is a whole lot of money for the average car thief, putting this method beyond the reach of most.