How thieves are now hacking high-tech cars

The secret is out. Criminals are using easy-to-buy electronic scanners to steal some of Britain’s most popular executive cars. Criminals are now hacking into cars in under 60 seconds, without leaving a single scratch or dent and it’s highlighting a major flaw in the security of luxury cars.

In fact, almost half of the 89,000 vehicles broken into in London last year were hacked electronically. However the problem is not confined to London postcodes. Insurers and car organisations across the country are concerned that the electronic systems designed to protect our vehicles, do not have the adequate security systems in place to keep our vehicles secure.

One of the most common hi-tech thefts, known as car hacking, targets vehicles with keyless ignition systems. Thieves use a hand-held radio jammer to block the signal to remote locking car keys, which renders them useless. The driver will think they have locked their vehicle, when actually they will remain unlocked. The thieves can then access the vehicle and re-programme a blank electronic key to start and steal the vehicle.

Whilst this version of car hacking allows the criminal to commit theft, some are concerned it can be used to put lives at risk. Technology security experts have demonstrated that it is now possible to hack into the increasingly popular infotainment systems. Such systems allow drivers to play music, make calls and view vehicle information. The concern is, that these infotainment systems are often connected to the same computer systems that manage the vehicle’s steering and braking. This means a car hacker could take control of the vehicle, putting the driver’s life at risk. What’s worse is that some experts believe it may be possible to hack multiple vehicles at the same time!

So what can we do about it? The most obvious deterrent would be to drive a simpler car! However, considering the global obsession with technology, our cars no doubt will come to rely on computerised systems, and more sophisticated security measures will also become commonplace. It is crucial to keep on top of new security threats so make sure your car’s on-board computer is kept up to date and be conscious of any recalls that the manufacturer may have made. McAfee, with support from Intel, currently is working on the problem, developing partnerships that will help to deliver new securities in the cars we drive.

Want more help? We are happy to offer our advice and ensure your car is protected!


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