Researchers Find A Way To Steal Cars For $22

In the movies, stealing a car normally involves breaking into it and then hotwiring the ignition. Unfortunately, it’s even easier than that as Chinese researchers have found a way to steal a car with a couple of radios that cost $11 each.

According to Wired, researchers at Qihoo 360 used the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam to showcase a simple way to steal a car without the owner ever knowing. The attack works by having one person get within a few feet of the victim’s car keys, while another person stands next to the victim’s car.

The radio near the car impersonates a signal from the key, which in turn activates a radio signal from the vehicle’s keyless entry system. The car is looking for a verification code but instead of trying to guess the code, the device copies the signal and then transmits it to the second radio. The signal is effectively forwarded to the key which then transmits the unlock code back to the first device.

This clever bit of thievery allows the attackers to steal a vehicle at distances in excess of one thousand feet. The long distances enabled by the attack make it perfect for targeting employees of office buildings, supermarkets, and even restaurants as the victim won’t even notice their car is gone until they return.

This type of attack isn’t new but Qihoo 360 has succeeded in making it extremely affordable for would-be criminals. Last year, the ADAC showcased a similar attack using $225 worth of equipment and it was able to work on 24 different models including high-end vehicles from Audi and BMW.


  • Spurious Squirrel

    I’ve noticed owners of top end vehicles resorting to diskloks to counter this threat, hello 1990’s…

  • Skip

    I don’t get that. The device would need to get the signal from the key right? Wouldn’t that only happen when you push a key button? No driver signals from 1,000 feet away..

    • kimbentsen

      With a proximity key it is enough to press the handle to open the door, and start the car while the key remains in your pocket.

    • Sébastien

      Keyless entry/start doesnt require you to touch your keyfob… That’s the biggest design/security flaw.

  • MonkeyRider

    To prevent that kind of hacking, you can wrap your key fob with aluminum foil when you leave.
    I know it’s cumbersome though.

    • shamowfski

      Faraday cage purses.

      • ChrisInIL

        It’s easier to just wear a Faraday suit. Protects both your fob AND your phone.

  • Vassilis

    A very important reason to not have keyless entry in your car.

  • pureworx

    this is exactly why i have said over and over again that car theft is returning and on the increase because of these “smart” keys… its the same for the tap and pay cards you get now.. can easily code an app and use on a concealed device to charge cards up to £25..

    i prefer my dumb key and card.. so i cut the nfc circuit in my new card.. still can pay using chip and pin and use atms.

    • Sébastien

      well some banks let you disable the NFC payments.

  • Infinite1

    There’s always a way to work around it. You can never surely make something that is “theft proof”

  • cargeniuass

    Anyone else remember the club???

  • cargeniuass

    Also, this doesn’t just work on smart “proximity” keys, it works on any that have a transponder.

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