Car-Hacking: A Dangerous New Trend


It used to be that criminals would break into people’s cars by smashing the windows with a crowbar. However, London police have uncovered a dangerous new trend: car-hacking.

Most cars today contain up to 80 computer systems that power elements such as navigation, central locking, and the brakes. Criminals have used this to their advantage, creating devices that can be used to intercept the signals and gain access to cars without using physical force. These devices can be bought cheaply online, and video tutorials teach criminals how to use them to steal a car.

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One example is this CAN Hacking Tool created by Spanish researchers in February. This device can be fitted to any car’s Controller Area Network within minutes and run malicious code through the vehicle’s system, allowing hackers to control the lights, locks, steering and brakes. It is available for $20 (£12).

Figures recorded by the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) show that half of all car thefts last year were carried out without the use of physical force. About 21,000 cars were stolen in London last year, and a further 68,000 were broken into. “High-end vehicles are becoming more and more sophisticated”, said the MPS, “In turn so are criminals.”

The MPS is currently working with car manufacturers to develop new security measures. They advise drivers to leave their cars in well-lit areas, and use steering, gear shift and pedal locks, along with tracking devices.

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