Hi-Tech Car Lockpick Puts Car Manufacturers on Red Alert
A wave of car theft that started in February might completely change the contactless car lock industry as we know it.
A number of incidents caught on security cameras in Long Beach, California, reveal individuals equipped with something that looks like a high-tech wireless lockpick who approach passenger doors and open them in a matter of seconds without triggering the alarm.
According to a report on Today Magazine, neither police nor car vendors can explain how this is possible, even though thieves have compromised a number of car models throughout the first half of the year.
“This is bad in the sense we’re stumped,” said Long Beach Deputy Police Chief David Hendricks. “We are stumped and we don’t know what this technology is.”
On the other side, security experts are also puzzled by how easy it is to break into a car equipped with a remote-controlled locking system.
“This is really frustrating because clearly they’ve figured out something that looks really simple and whatever it is they’re doing, it takes just seconds to do,” said Jim Stickley, co-Founder TraceSecurity Inc.. “And you look and you go, ‘That should not be possible.’”
Since their introduction in the ‘50s, car key fobs have undergone major improvements in terms of security. The signals the keys send to the authorized car are not reusable – a car key can generate more than one trillion unique signals, so sniffing an unlocking operation to reuse a legit code is not an option. The locking subsystems in modern cars are synchronized with the key via a pseudo-random number generator that is similar to the one-time-password device you use in banking transactions, so one car will only open its doors to the key that has been synchronized with it.
One thing is sure: camera footage shows that the device has failed on some brands such as Ford and Cadillac, and Acuras have welcomed the intruders without much resistance.
Until police figure how the attackers circumvented the electronic locks, here’s a piece of free advice: don’t leave any valuable goods in the car. Since thieves are apparently not interested in stealing the car but rather raiding valuables, that should keep you safe for the moment.