Two dozen vehicles found to have wireless key-entry systems that are vulnerable to hacking

German researchers have discovered two dozen vehicles that use wireless key entry systems that are vulnerable and allow the radio signal to be intercepted and used to steal a car.

On the heels of the federal government's warning about automotive cybersecurity vulnerabilities, a group of German vehicle security researchers has released a study showing many wireless key entry systems are vulnerable to hacking.

Munich-based ADAC (Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil-Club) performed the study on dozens of cars to test a radio "amplification attack" that extends the range of a driver's wireless key fobs to open cars and even start their ignitions.

The researchers claimed 24 different vehicles from 19 manufacturers are vulnerable. The vulnerability allows cars to be unlocked and started but leaves no trace of the hack.

All that is needed to unlock and start a vehicle is commercially available wireless technology and the "technical knowledge of electronics or apprentices from the electrical engineering undergraduate studies," the article in WirtschaftsWoche, a German business magazine, stated.

The researchers discovered that the radio connection between wireless key entry systems and the car can easily be extended over several hundred meters. This is regardless of whether the original key is, for example, at the owner's home or pocket.

German ADAS car hack ADAS

Two researchers show how a radio amplifier can access a car owner's FOB to start a vehicle in the owner's garage. At right, the researcher holds the amplification system while, on the left, another researcher climbs in the car to start it.

Also, immobilizer and alarm systems can be overcome the same way.

"Every one we have examined since the beginning of 2016 cars with keyless technology has this vulnerability," Arnulf Thiemel, an expert on automotive electronics from the ADAC Technology Center in Landsberg am Lech, said in a published report. "According to our estimates, hundreds of thousands vehicles are affected."

If a car is stolen, it runs without a key as long as fuel is in the tank, or until the engine stalls or is turned off, the researchers said. Even refueling with the engine running is possible.

Owners of cars with keyless locking systems should exercise increased vigilance in the storage of the key, the researchers said.

Vehicles exposed to the wireless entry hack include the Audi A3, A4 and A6, BMW's 730d, Citroen's DS4 CrossBack, Ford's Galaxy and Eco-Sport, Honda's HR-V, Hyundai's Santa Fe CRDi, KIA's Optima, Lexus's RX 450h, Mazda's CX-5, MINI's Clubman, Mitsubishi's Outlander, Nissan's Qashqai and Leaf, Opel's Ampera, Range Rover's Evoque, Renault's Traffic, Ssangyong's Tivoli XDi, Subaru's Levorg, Toyota's RAV4, and Volkswagen's Golf GTD and Touran 5T.

The automakers have "a duty" to take quick action by offering appropriate retrofits for effected vehicles, the researchers said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hackingcarsautomobileautomotive ITAutomotive

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucas Mearian

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?