Watch Out For People With Laptops Connected By Cable To Your Ferrari

from the yeah-right dept

The latest threat to modern cars — apparently — is thieves with laptops who can pick the software locks used by keyless entry systems and steal a car in, oh, 20 minutes or so. It’s hard to fathom how too many people could hang out next to a fancy car for 20 minutes with a laptop connected to the car via cable, never mind that attaching said cable to the car’s computer would probably require breaking into it somehow. That is, unless they’re using Bluetooth, the supposed scorn of cars everywhere. Shouldn’t be too long before easily excitable anti-virus firms start announcing exclusive deals to supply regularly updated security software to automakers to deal with all this impending doom.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Watch Out For People With Laptops Connected By Cable To Your Ferrari”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Andrew says:

Re: Whoa...

Well….your littel clicker thingy for your car has to interface with the cars systems somehow. Id guess that you could use a PC and broadcast on the same band as the cars keyless entry. You could probably interface with the car that way. Dont actualy know, I am just pulling this out of thin air.

TuxRacer says:

Re: Re: Re: m$

I’d rather have Linux. It doesn’t actually crash, just all the pretty stuff that you look at lock up, you run a couple quick commands in bash and your running full speed again. May take more work, but you don’t actually crash and if you know what your doing it’ll never freeze anyway.

nunya says:

Re: Re: m$

Well, if you have issues with scripts and require “funky commands” to run things, chances are you screwed them up and crashed it yourself. Probably from lack of RTFMs. Oh well, it’s not for everyone.. My CarPC is running Linux and doesn’t crash, even with WiFi, a touchscreen display, GPS.

I guess configuring something yourself, knowing how it’s supposed to work and what is needed, is possibly better than letting some software decide what’s best for my application. Then again, that can’t be right. Look at how secure Windows is by default.

Again, not for everyone…. Just don’t bash something simply because you find it difficult.

Guy looking for a laugh... NVM, just found it says:

Re: m$

LOL I feel your pain. While making jokes about cars and computers… think about a Subaru Tribeca: AOL edition. It clams to have 5.6 MPG, but really has 2.4 (FYI I am refering to connections speeds on dial-up), and when your car sends you a diagnostic via email, it gets hacked into and the email is unsent before you can read it, so when your car breaks down for “no reason”, you are suprised.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: m$

Hope you don’t own a BMW with I-drive, because that is Windows CE (or whatever the call it today).

Matter of fact, BMW is not the only manufacturer using Windows CE, so are Citroën, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volvo.

Aftermarket wise, Alpine, Kenwood and Panasonic all use MS in their products.

No one uses Linux in cars yet AFAIK, although Tom Tom’s Navigator uses Linux.


Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: m$

Well, you might be surprised, but most cars actually have a ‘safe’ mode. It’s called ‘limp home’ mode and occurs when certain sensor go out of range. It generally allows the engine to run, but restricts power/revs.

Often, the car will display ‘restricted performance’ or some such on the status display or trip computer. Sometimes this condition can be cured by disconnecting the battery (the car equivelant of a reboot) for a certain mount of time (usually more than an hour). It can always be cured by hooking up an ODB2 scanner and reseting the DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) to zero, although they may return if it’s a chronic (and real) problem, much like a computer reboot won’t cure a hardware problem…

Cars, much more like desktop computers than you think, there’s even a large group of car geeks hacking said cars….


Egat says:

Cabled or Wireless?

The article summary seems to indicate that a cable is needed to connect and crack the keyless entry system. However, the article linked seems to indicate that it is done wirelessly.

If it’s wireless then a 20 minute lockout isn’t going to do much. Just follow the car you want to steal, park near em, and start up your cracking program. If you’ve got it set up right, your laptop never even has to be open, and it automatically opens the doors and starts the car once the keyless fob is cracked, you jump in and drive away.

Carlo (profile) says:

Re: Cabled or Wireless?

This confusion merely reinforces the contention that this story isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The article I linked to talks about doing it wirelessly, but I’m not sure where that came from. The article upon which it appears to based (and which I didn’t link to since it’s on a registration-based site) talks only about cables:

“Experts believe the gangs first acquire details on where a car’s security data is stored – information that only the manufacturer is supposed to know. They then track a vehicle until they know it will be parked in a secluded area, because they need the time to connect their laptop to the car’s computer via cable.

The gang runs software that interrogates the car’s chips and sends them the right data to break the security barrier. “At key steps the car’s software can halt progress for up to 20 minutes as part of its in-built protection,” said Hart.”

Egat says:

Re: Re: Cabled or Wireless?

OK, thanks for the clarification from Carlo and Daryl Licker.

The details are incredibly sketchy (Carlo’s quotes seem to be all there is). It sounds like the thief is purchasing info on how to put the car security into a factory diagnostic mode of some kind, which might explain the 20 minute lockout. The second article seems to indicate they’ve got control of the security system at that point and can do as they please with the car.

Just another reason not to trust security-by-obscurity systems, not that any more were needed.

Daryl Licked says:

keyless entry v. anti-theft no-start

there are 2 different things going on here, one is wireless, one is not. Its not that hard to use an entena to capture a keyless entry transmission, the problem is that the “key codes” revolve. youd hafta capture quite a bit of keyless entry traffic to crack this.

the cable connection has nothing to do with the keyless entry. modern cars use RFID technology to test the key thats in the ignition. if the key is incorect, even if its cut properly, the computer will not allow the fuel injectors to fire. the cable connection theyr refering to is thru the OBD II plug. they hack the cars computer untill it either ignores the securety key procedure, or activates it thru a workaround, allowing the injectors to fire.

Darylicked: ASE certified tech (car hacker)

Anonymous Coward says:


“The lack of specific instructions and possibilites as to how this may or may not be done reinforces my thought that nobody on this site has the slightest clue as to how you’d go about “hacking” a car…”

You expect someone to give you instructions on how to do this on Techdirt? Get a clue. The people who know how to do this want to keep it as secretive as possible so that others don’t cut into their profits. The ones who don’t know how to do this, can’t post specifics. The news won’t supply details as there would be an outbreak of car thefts if they did!

Autozone Employee says:

RE: keyless entry v. anti-theft no-start by Daryl

where everyone gets there facts i have no idea.

it seems that almost all of this is made up information 🙂

heres some thats true. the OBD II connector on a car doesnt have an input section… the pins simply A. send a 12v 15amp power supply through 1 pin. B. ground through another pin. and C. the rest are just to send specific singals to whatever device is connected.

what specific singals are sent?

if the ECM (the car’s computer, which is _always_ buried under the hood) has detected any problems with the car, it stores that problem as a number… p0301 being a cylinder 1 misfire, p1428 being a ford specific transimssion speed sensor malfunction.

nothing can be sent to the ecm through this connector.

and plus, the connector itself is under the driverside dash.

point being, if anyone can physically hook up a cable to a car’s computer, they either have the keys, or they broke in to it. (or broke the hood latch and found the ecm)

there just simply is no way this is possible through wires.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: RE: keyless entry v. anti-theft no-start by Da

That’s not true. Most OBDII interfaces are bi-directional (how else would you reset codes?), although there are always manufacturer specific extensions.

Otherwise, things like re-configuring cars so that satnav can be retrofited would be impossible (like this If you know the particular codes needed to reconfigure your car’s systems (like turning off the ‘door locks on movement’ in mine), then you can use generic ODBII PC-based software (like this to change things.


Daryl Licked says:

Re: RE: keyless entry v. anti-theft no-start by Da

A quaint reminder as to why you should never trust the diagnosis of an “autozone employee”. i do know specifics on how to “hack” ignition systems. i just worked on a benz last week with an intermitent no start due to an onboard security system. There is a tremendous amount of bi-directional control through an OBD2 interface. dont believe me? “auto-zone” even sells “chip upgrades” for Ford and GM that are nothing more than software fed thru the OBD port to increase horsepower through transmission and fuel/ignition controls. yeesh

dodgetech2 says:

Re: RE: keyless entry v. anti-theft no-start by Da

You are incorrect…data most certainly can be sent thru the DLC….That connector is used to update controllers..if you have a bi-directional scan tool, you can send info all day long to any module on the bus…right thru the DLC….(data link connector)

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...