Keyless entry is no longer considered a luxury feature on cars, it's expected by buyers and has become a standard item. But those little key fobs that make using your car so convenient are also causing some major problems.
One auto manufacturer, in particular, is encountering trouble with remote-cloning, placing millions of drivers at risk. Over 100 million vehicles could be compromised by hackers who have reverse-engineered the keyless entry system. What's worse, the hack doesn't even require expensive software. Hackers are doing this using basic radios.
If you own a Volkswagen that was manufactured between 1995 - 2016 and has keyless entry, your vehicle is vulnerable to what's called "key cloning."
Key cloning is a tactic used by hackers to record the codes passing through keyless entry systems as they communicate with one another. To do this, hackers eavesdrop using modified radios that are easy to make and cost less than $50.
When you consider that VW owners are spread all across the world, this news doesn't seem all that worrisome. The odds of a hacker targeting your vehicle seem very slim.
But the most shocking information coming out is that hackers could be targeting VW's global master keys, which could give them access to every VW vehicle they encounter.
Word of this began spreading after European researchers from the U.K. and Germany released highlights of the data they've been collecting.
In an abstract from the report, the researchers claimed the following:
"In our first case study, we show that the security of the keyless entry systems of most VW Group vehicles manufactured between 1995 and today relies on a few, global master keys. We show that by recovering the cryptographic algorithms and keys from electronic control units, an adversary is able to clone a VW Group remote control and gain unauthorized access to a vehicle by eavesdropping a single signal sent by the original remote."
Volkswagen wasn't the only auto manufacturer reviewed by this study. The researchers also looked into vehicles made by Chevrolet and Ford, as well as some lesser-known brands such as Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Opel and others.
So far, only a snippet of their findings has been released to the public. The team is expected to present their full report at the Usenix security conference in Austin, Texas this week.
Until we know more, now may be a good time to start wrapping your keys in aluminum foil. Click here to see more reasons why this is a good idea.