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.