Thieves Go High-Tech To Steal Today’s Computerized Cars

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Today’s cars can contain over 100 computers and millions of lines of software code, which are all networked together and can operate all aspects of your vehicle. It is only logical that following this shift, car theft has gone high-tech.

According to Techxplore, the computers in a vehicle can be divided into four categories; The majority are dedicated to operating the vehicle’s drive train-controlling the fuel, the battery, monitoring emissions, and operating cruise control. The second category is for safety- collecting data from in and around the vehicle for functions like lane correction, automatic braking, and backup monitoring. The third category is information-entertainment systems that provide music and video and can interface with personal devices through Bluetooth. The last category is the navigation system.

The major difference between a car network and a typical computer network is that all the car devices trust each other, so if an attacker can access one, they can easily access all computers in the car.

Some new car features make it easier for thieves while other features make it harder. There are several methods of stealing today’s smart cars.

One of the high-tech features is the use of keyless entry and remote start, which has become very common. The first keyless fobs transmitted a digital code to the car, and it would unlock, but thieves quickly realized they could eavesdrop on the radio signal and make a recording to then “replay” and unlock the car. Now the newest fobs use a one-time code to open the door for increased security.

One method thieves use involves using two devices to build an “electronic bridge” between a person’s fob and car, in which two thieves go to the owner’s car and home and trick the car into searching for a fob signal, and the fob to reply, and then steal the signal to activate the car and drive off. Carmakers are looking to fix this by ensuring the fob is in the car for it to be driven.

The network used for the communication of all the car’s computers is called a “controller area network bus”. Car thieves often try to hack into the CAN bus and then the computers that control the car’s engine, since it stores a copy of the wireless key code, and thieves can clone this to a blank key fob to use to start the victim’s car.

Since cars are only getting more high-tech and complex, thieves are likely to continue and find new and creative ways to steal them. To protect against this, as always keep your vehicle locked, and don’t leave your key fob in it. The other, newer security measure is to keep your vehicle’s software up to date, just as you do with your phone and computer.

This information was provided by Techxplore.