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Stealing a push-button car is as easy as mounting signal boosters


It is possible to remotely open a car with a wireless system, amplifying the signal from the key
. That is how forceful is the conclusion reached by the German motorist club ADAC , after analyzing 25 car models that use a remote opening and keyless start system.

That one is none other than the BMW i3, as published by Wired . And even in the case of the Bavarian electrician, the ADAC analysts were not able to open the doors, but they were able to start the vehicle.

Despite the fact that the problem had already been previously detected, and even experienced during 2011 in Switzerland with expensive signal amplifiers, ADAC's test shows that it is possible to open cars even with low-cost equipment . If the Swiss spent thousands of euros in the experiment, the people at ADAC were enough to invest about 200 euros in the test. you can visit here for more!

How did they open the remote cars at the ADAC?

ADAC investigators mounted two radio devices : one near the victim, and another near the vehicle. The device near the car amplified the signal that constantly looked for the presence of its wireless key, while the device near the victim was responsible for amplifying the signal emitted by the key in response to the vehicle's requirements.

Once communication was established, the car was unlocked simply by passing a hand over the door handle. According to the ADAC:

The radio connection between the key and the car can easily be extended to several hundred meters, regardless of whether the original key is, for example, at home or in the car owner's pocket.

Those responsible for the study did not want to give more details about the method used, for obvious reasons. They have also resisted, for example, publishing a diagram of communication devices. Instead, they do warn about how easy it can be to reproduce their work, when they say that “an Electronics student, in his second semester, should be able to build this type of device without any additional technical indication.”

The serious thing about this vulnerability is that it does not leave a trace , unlike what usually happens when someone steals a car as has been done all their lives. Let's imagine the situation. We are sitting at home, so quietly, and someone comes to the door with his handful of chips and antennas, intercepting the signal of the key while his buddy does the same with the signal of our car. They open the car for us, start it and take it away. There are vehicles that warn of the lack of key in the passenger compartment, but allow us to continue driving until we press the button.

So we are so calm while someone has taken the car. By the time we become aware of the theft – or should we call it theft? – the car may have traveled a few miles. And when we report his disappearance, and counting on the car to appear, perhaps the police will end up telling us that our vehicle does not show signs of having been forced. Are we trying to scam the insurance?

And that, if the car appears nearby. As they remember in ADAC , it is likely that the car has crossed the border and is walking around under a new identity .

Faced with such a panorama, the key question arises. What can be done? Experiments carried out to date suggest isolating the key so that radio waves cannot easily propagate. There are those who talk about mounting the remote control a Faraday cage or even putting the key in the freezer, as the editor of The New York Times Nick Bilton explained last year , after taking up to three scares in a month with his Toyota Prius.

Without a clear perspective of what can happen with this problem, the truth is that since 2011, when the first scientific experiments took place, until today, manufacturers seem to have not had time to find successful solutions that protect their models from possible attacks , for example by making it necessary to press a button on the key again or with a timer that cancels the key when we foresee that we are not going to use the vehicle.

The spokesmen of the manufacturers consulted by Wired explain that they have improved the security of their systems and that the number of thefts is decreasing. However, it is clear that 24 models on the current market can be opened today without requiring expensive equipment or very advanced knowledge.

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Written by Rhys Faulkner

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