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Modern technology making cars easier to steal

By raccars Published

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For a long time, hi tech modern alarm systems were touted as the way to defend your car against theft, but it seems these same advancements are now being used against the car owner. These days, cars are being attacked not by bricks through windows or crowbars to jemmy open doors, but by using gadgets easily available on-line.

The London Metropolitan Police Service has released figures showing that last year, only about half of car thefts committed in the capital were done by force. Criminals are turning instead to the kind of gadgetry used by locksmiths to enter and steal cars discreetly. The MPS has recommended that drivers increase their security with additional, mechanical measures, such as steering locks.

This hi tech modern equipment can be bought on-line, where there are even modern video tutorials that show how to use it. The equipment can be used to gain entry to any car fitted with on-board computers - which is most of them. The average vehicle these days can contain as many as 80 small computers, which are used for satellite navigation, brakes, central locking and a number of other functions.

Researchers in Spain highlighted the risks in February, by creating a hacking tool for £12. Dubbed the CAN Hacking Tool (CHT), the device can connect to the 'Controller Area Network' of any car in the space of a few minutes. Hackers then use it to enter a malicious code into the car's computer system and take control of any computer operated functions, such as locks, lights, brakes and steering. It's a very simple tool that is attached by wires to a vehicle's four controller network outputs. It contains a chip that costs less than £1 to circumvent the car's encryption system and then access the engine control unit's flash memory, which can be copied and rewritten.

To emphasise how easily this can occur, last year a group of security engineers, under the guise of ethical hacking, wirelessly hacked into the on-board computers of a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape using a laptop. This allowed them to operate the accelerator, brakes and headlights, alter the speedometer, make the seatbelts tighter and sound the horn.

This kind of 'car-hacking' has also been flagged as a potential problem with autonomous driving technology, due to the possibility that cars could be subject to theft remotely and used for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

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