Car Hacking | Report reveals security flaw in immobilizers

Over 100 models at risk from wireless attacks; study was hidden for two years

A security flaw in Volkswagen, Volvo and Fiat cars could allow hackers to remotely start and steal vehicles without having a key, a report has revealed.

The report, titled ‘Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lock-picking a Vehicle Immobilizer’, was recently released after a Volkswagen court injunction blocking its publication was lifted after two years.

Cars are only supposed to start if the key is present in the car. But the report says anti-theft systems on some models can be hacked – allowing the car to be simply driven away.

Report authors Roel Verdult, Flavio Garcia and Baris Ege wrote: “We were able to recover the key and start the engine with a transponder-emulating device. Executing this attack from beginning to end takes only 30 minutes.”

The hackers were able to eavesdrop on the signals sent between the cars’ immobilizers and their keys.

Cars from Porsche, Ferrari, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo are among those that use the same transponders that the experts hacked.

Car hacking: could it happen to you?

The researchers are calling for their findings to be taken into account by car companies that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, so necessary security measures can be put in place. But unlike a recent security flaw discovered on the Tesla Model S, the latest security risk cannot be fixed by a simple software upgrade.

The researchers who uncovered the flaw believe their findings should be made public and used as an incentive for car manufacturers to increase their cyber-security efforts.

The manufacturers, on the other hand, prefer to keep the discussion under wraps.

Volkswagen Group of America, along with 12 other car manufacturers, is lobbying for car technology to fall under the protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US. If successful in its efforts, research of this nature would become illegal.

In a statement, Volkswagen said: “In this connection, Volkswagen does not make available information that might enable unauthorized individuals to gain access to its vehicles.

“In all aspects of vehicle security, be this mechanical or electronic, Volkswagen goes to great lengths to ensure the security and integrity of its products against external malicious attack.”

 

You can download the full report here

 

 

Credit: Simon Davis

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