Car Hacking

Alfa Mito or Giulietta? Bentley Continental? BMW 1, 5, 6 or 7-Series? Vauxhall Astra, Vectra or Zafira? Porsche Cayenne? Any Peugeot that ends with a ‘7’? Honda CR-V or Civic? Fiat 500 or Bravo? Chrysler 300C perhaps? If your car is any of the above, or any of the other cars on this list, you better pay close attention to the key.

Researchers of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, have found a way to hack the chip in the key. This applies to the type of car that has a start button, rather than turnkey ignition. The chip, called Hitag2, in the key sends out a signal the car needs to receive before it’ll allow the engine to awake. The researchers from Nijmegen found a way to scan and copy the signal from the key, copy it onto some sort of apparatus. This apparatus can subsequently send out the signal to the car and the motor can be started.

The chip was developed at the back end of the Nineties but has still been applied in automobiles in recent years. There’s a good chance that your car has it too. But should you really be worried?

The company behind the chip, NXP Semiconductors, stresses it isn’t quite so simple, as there’s a series of steps of varying complexity that needs to be completed. First off, of course, the hacker needs to get his grubby hands on the original key, or at least get very close to it. He needs to find the matching car and break into it and then run some calcs on a computer. Apparently he then needs to find the car’s key again to have his apparatus communicate some more. Then he will be able to return to the car and start the engine, only to find out that he still needs to disable the steering column lock.

I’m not an expert in car-jacking, but it seems to me it’s easier just to nick the key. Or bash the window and work some wire magic in the traditional way. No worries then!

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