If you thought a steering wheel lock was all you needed, think again. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, thieves have figured out how to hack into late-model cars’ electronic ignitions. The car industry’s increasing use of computer controls has made your car more vulnerable. That’s right—they can steal your car with the aid of their laptops.
The Houston Police Department made this discovery following an incident in which two car thieves were caught on camera trying to start a 2010 Jeep Wrangle with their laptop. Police said that the same technique may have been used to steal four other late-model Wranglers and Cherokees in Houston. So far, the vehicles have not been recovered.
Houston police officer James Wood told the Wall Street Journal, “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.”
This method, whatever it may be, isn’t exclusive to Houston. The National Insurance Crime Bureau told the Wall Street Journal that it tracks police reports from across the country and that there has been an uptick in electronic-related car thefts.
Even manufacturers aren’t sure what the thieves may be doing. But Titus Melnyk, senior manager of security architecture for Fiat Chrysler in North America, has one theory. He told the Wall Street Journal that a person with access to a dealer website could have sold the info to a thief. The thief can then enter the vehicle ID number onto the dealer’s site and receive a code to enter into the car’s computer. The car will then accept a new key.
In an effort to prevent thieves from doing this, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors Co., and Tesla Motors Inc. had altered their cars’ electronics over the past two years. Fiat Chrysler even recalled 1.4 million cars last year.
So how can protect your auto baby? You may have to turn to a start-up dedicated to automotive cyberprotections. Take Argus Cyber Security Ltd. Or Voyomotive LLC, for starters. Until then, you might just have to wait for automotive industry trade groups to introduce new tech or simply set up security cameras and hope for the best.
(h/t Wall Street Journal)