Earlier this year, we informed you about how thieves could steal your car by intercepting your key fob signal. This time, however, a new car theft technique involving laptops has emerged.
A recent YouTube video posted by CrimeStopHouston shows two car thieves breaking into a 2010 Jeep Wrangler and using a laptop to hack the system and start up the engine. The two suspected car thieves were caught on tape by a surveillance camera.
“If you are going to hot-wire a car, you don’t bring along a laptop,” Houston Police Department's Senior Officer James Woods explained. “We don’t know what he is exactly doing with the laptop, but my guess is he is tapping into the car’s computer and marrying it with a key he may already have with him so he can start the car.”
Press play to watch the footage:
The YouTube video description states that one suspect was first seen on separate surveillance footage raising the vehicle's hood to disable the audible alarm. A few minutes later, as seen on the video, a second suspect breaks into the Jeep. He fiddles around with a laptop, turns off the alarm's flashing lights and shortly, drives away with the vehicle.
Houston police are saying that four additional late model Wranglers and Cherokees may have been stolen using this same technique. A Fiat Chrysler spokesman explained that he suspects these thieves are using dealer data to pair different key fobs to the cars. An individual with access to the data may have sold it to the suspects and they are using vehicle identification numbers to generate new codes. These codes are then programmed to the car's computer, possibly using a laptop, to accept the new key signal.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau is also saying that it is starting to see police reports of newer model thefts using "mystery electronic devices."
“We think it is becoming the new way of stealing cars,” NICB Vice President Roger Morris said. “The public, law enforcement and the manufacturers need to be aware.”
Is this another case of car technology outpacing car security?
Although this laptop car theft in question appears to be more of a combination of compromised dealer data, technological savvy and a physical break-in, there are a variety of other high-tech tools that car thieves can utilize to drive away with your car.
We have seen how security researchers hacked a Jeep Cherokee's UConnect system and wirelessly took control of the car's transmission, brakes and accelerator, prompting a nationwide recall for the onboard computer software.
Computers are also used by thieves to brute force key fob codes intercepted wirelessly as car owners enter and exit their vehicles. In fact, security researchers found out that they could narrow down the possible key fob code combinations to 200,000 which would only take a computer 30 minutes to crack.
Another way that thieves use technology is by using cheap signal amplifiers to pick up key fob signals from far away, even from a key fob securely stashed inside your own home!
To be safe from these more common car theft hacks, check out our tips on how to protect yourself from key fob signal interceptions.