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'Unhackable' car security system takes just half an hour to crack

'Unhackable' car security system takes just half an hour to crack
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Remote keyless entry was once a luxury, but today it's rare to find a car that doesn't have it. Given that it's everywhere, you would expect that any possible kinks have been worked out, but you'd be wrong.

In fact, a popular model of keyless entry that uses a Megamos Crypto transponder turns out to be not as secure as car makers thought. It leaves Volkswagen, Chevy, Audi, Fiat, Honda, Volvo, Porsche, Cadillac and other car brands vulnerable to thieves.

The problem lies in the way the transponder and fob exchange the code that tells the system to unlock. The system is supposed to have billions of possible code combinations, which make it impossible to crack.

However, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Birmingham found that by intercepting the wireless signal just twice, they could narrow it down to 200,000 combinations. From there, it only takes half an hour for a computer to find the right one and unlock the car.

So, in theory, a thief could sit in a van on your street for a day as people leave for work and return home, do some number crunching with a computer for a few hours, and then steal a bunch of cars overnight. But that's not the worst part.

Next page: The worst part, and what car models are at risk
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