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Today's Car Thieves Can Use Cell Phones, Not Slim Jims


2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicle information iPhone app

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicle information iPhone app

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If you have a new car, equipped with the latest in cellular-network-based security, we’ve got bad news for you. A group of hackers has proven that they can find a vehicle’s specific location, remotely unlock it, and start it using nothing more than a simple cell-phone-initiated text message. Don Bailey and Matthew Solnik, of iSec Partners, will present their findings at next week’s Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas.

The pair plan to demonstrate their research at the conference, though it was unclear if they’d target a random vehicle to prove their point. Although Bailey and Solnik won’t identify which system was hacked, there’s a limited number of cellular-network-based security systems on the market today, and the most popular (by a large margin) is GM’s OnStar.

If you think you need a master’s degree in computer science from MIT to hack into a vehicle, the pair advise you to think again. In a quote from Kaspersky Lab’s ThreatPost blog, Bailey advised, “This is not technologically advanced. The fact is you can own these kinds of systems in under a couple hours.”

In defense of cellular network security, any vehicle theft would likely be temporary, since a code can be sent to disable and then locate the stolen vehicle. Would that prevent a tech-savvy teen from hacking dad's Corvette while he's away on business? Probably not.

Just in case this isn't disconcerting enough, iSec warns that the same methods can be used to hack public utilities, such as power plants and water treatment complexes. That makes the idea of having your car stolen by hackers seem downright insignificant, doesn’t it?

[MSNBC]

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Comments (7)
  1. Maybe, They should be showing this to the Auto Makers. This is NOT good news for auto owners... If GM does not correct this unsafe problem, ....
    It will make me think twice before buying a GM model.
    What other makers has similar systems?
     
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  2. Many offer some form of telematics system: Ford has SYNC, Mercedes has mbrace, BMW has Assist, Lexus has Enform, Toyota has Safety Connect and Hyundai is rolling out BlueLink.

    Of the programs currently available, only OnStar, mbrace, BMW Assist and BlueLink offer remote unlocking. OnStar, mbrace and BlueLink are the only services with a vehicle finder, and OnStar is the only one I'm aware of that allows remote vehicle starting.

    That said, remember that OnStar also offers stolen vehicle tracking and remote slow down / shut down. If your GM vehicle is stolen, it won't stay missing for long.
     
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  3. Kurt - why are you answering email at 5.04 am?
    OT: even if Onstar does help the police find the missing car, it might be trashed. I happened to my family.
    The Remote Starting capability has a narrow benefit but a huge liability.
     
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  4. Carl, as any One Lap Of America participant can tell you, sleep is for the weak (besides, I'm on the East coast, so it was really 8:04 AM. A better question would be why I'm writing, answering e-mail and responding to comments seven days a week...
     
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  5. Hungry? Paid by the word?
    So now I know - even our posts are time shifted, Who'da thunk that?
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  6. Don't worry too much about little ol' GM. Some hackers are working on Bluetooth cracking. Using this method, a 15-year-old can stand near your car and break into the BCM through the TMPS Bluetooth network. Once in, they remotely unlock the doors and crank the starter. Good bye!
     
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  7. Is there any other benefit to having the remote starting capability than having the car outside warming up while you sit inside finishing your coffee?
    Does this feature automatically lock the doors and leave the interior lights OFF?
    My Toyota lights the headlights as soon as the engine is running. Would that be a "steal me" signal?
     
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