100 million vehicles are vulnerable to this hack

Volkswagen has been in the news a lot lately after the whole emissions scandal come to light, but today, Volkswagen is in the news for something different, this time joining the ranks of Jeep and its hacking problem. As it turns out, more than 100 million Volkswagen vehicles are extremely vulnerable to hacking. And, don’t think this is limited to cars just a few models old. If your VW is from the 1995 model year or newer, it’s at risk. The worst part is: You’ll help the hacker break in and won’t even know it. So, how does this work?

It’s actually really simple and takes nothing more than a reasonably affordable transmitter and receiver. According to Wired. the researchers who uncovered this vulnerability at the University of Birmingham used something called an Arduino radio device that costs about $40. Remember that scene from “Gone in 60 Seconds” when the team of car thieves captured the signal from a remote garage door opener? Well, this hack works kind of like that. A hack sits within close proximity to your Volkswagen and waits for you to remotely unlock it. When you do, the device receives the signal. Hackers can then combine this with a cryptographic key to clone the signal and use it later to unlock the car. That’s not it, however. It does get worse.

Right away, you’re probably thinking that that cryptographic key is hard to come by right? Wrong. In fact, VW uses just a handful of keys across its entire lineup of brands under its umbrella, including brands like Audi, Bentley, Porsche, and Seat, among others. What’s more is that if the car is equipped with keyless ignition, a second exploit that has been uncovered previously can then be used to start the car and drive away once it has been unlocked.

Keep reading for the rest of the story

Why it Matters

For what it’s worth, brand new Volkswagen models now have their own unique key, which leaves them invulnerable to this hack, but just about anything from 1995 to 2016ish can be hacked using very little technology and a little know-how. The worst part is that Volkswagen probably won’t be able to do much to fix the problem. Going back and correcting that many cars is likely outside of its budget now that everyone and their brothers are suing the brand over its recent scandal. You best bet is to invest in an aftermarket alarm system that will still alert you to a break-in should the car’s security be compromised. I run one with a motion detector that is very sensitive, but I feel safe enough to leave my windows down just about anywhere, as even sticking your hand through the window will set it off. Of course, chances are, someone isn’t looking to break into your Volkswagen, but you never know. Car break-ins and theft happen all the time these days despite manufacturers constant advancements in vehicle security.

Source: Wired

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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