USING a tool that costs less than RM150 (US$38), car thieves can easily drive away with cars that use the keyless entry and push-button ignition systems with the help of a frequency-hacking device that can be bought off the shelves.
Some electronic stores and online shopping sites stock the device capable of unlocking cars and starting its engine by hacking its radio frequency identification (RFID) information, The Star reported.
The device could open almost all types of vehicles equipped with keyless entry, a source said, adding car theft syndicates worked with hackers who used a special software on their laptops to operate the device.
The paper reported that there were three ways in which the vehicles could have their encryption codes unlocked.
“The device has to be attached to a computer and run with simple frequency monitoring software, which can be downloaded for free from the Internet. “The software reads the frequency transmitted between the remote key and car system,” the source said.
“It can capture the frequency code used to lock the car. At the same time, it decrypts the rolling codes transmitted back by the car to the remote key, to unlock the vehicle.”
Another method involved an “attack” on the car system in which the device is used to broadcast a signal that mimics the remote, hence prompting the car to reveal a rolling code.
The device then “learns” the code and decrypts it, allowing the targeted vehicle to be unlocked.
The process could take only a few minutes, depending on the code database possessed by the hackers.
“Thieves have also been known to steal the code from the remote key by broadcasting a radio signal to it.
“This emulates the car communicating with the key, which will automatically send a response.
“The car thieves will then capture and decrypt the frequency transmitted from the key and pair it with the car’s locking system to unlock the vehicle.”
Many cars that came with keyless entry systems also had push-start ignition systems that did not require conventional keys and this means that when thieves can unlock the vehicle, they could immediately start the car’s engine.
The Star also highlighted Munich-based Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club’s (ADAC) recent revelation that 110 models from 27 different manufacturers that used the keyless system were at risk of being stolen.
The largest auto club in Europe conducted a test which saw cars being “stolen” with the frequency-hacking device.
“To date, car manufacturers have yet to find a foolproof solution to beat these car thieves,” the ADAC said in its findings.
Malaysian police said they are aware of the high-tech method of stealing cars.
A spokesman for an automaker also suggested car owners use traditional methods, like steering locks, immobilisers, motion sensors, and alarms to deter car thefts.