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Hackers Leave Keyless Car Owners Clueless

© AFP 2021 / TOBIAS SCHWARZ A VW Golf is pictured inside the so-called cat towers of car manufacturer Volkswagen AG (VW) at the company's assembly plant in Wolfsburg, northern Germany
A VW Golf is pictured inside the so-called cat towers of car manufacturer Volkswagen AG (VW) at the company's assembly plant in Wolfsburg, northern Germany - Sputnik International
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Keyless cars are once again under the spotlight after scientists discovered criminals could easily hack into the systems using a simple radio transmitter.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham's School of Computer Science, suggest millions of cars are at risk of being stolen because the technology is out of date. Volkswagen cars were found to be most at risk from criminals uncovering cryptographic algorithm signals between the vehicle and the key. 

​Using a simple radio transmitter, hackers can intercept the signal between the car and the key, clone it and then use it at a later date to open the car without the owner being there.

The car manufacturers affected by the potential hack include Audi, Skoda Porche and VW, all part of the Volkswagen Group. All vehicles dating back to the mid-1990s could be compromised.

​"It's a bit worrying to see security techniques from the 1990s used in new vehicles," researcher Dr Flavio Gambia said. 

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"If we want to have secure, autonomous, interconnected vehicles, that has to change. Unfortunately, the fix won't be easy, as there is quite a slow software development cycle, new designs will be quite a long time in the making," Gambia said.

The keyless car hacking saga doesn't stop there. Researchers at the University of Birmingham also found another route into vehicles manufactured by Alfa Rome, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Peugeot.

​"You only need to eavesdrop once," Dr David Oswald, another researcher warned.

"From that point on you can make a clone of the original remote control that locks and unlocks a vehicle as many times as you want."

​Dr Oswald suggests that car manufactures take their recent findings seriously: "Manufacturers really need to take heed and review their security settings."

​This hack attack is based on Hitag2 in which the cryptographic key is revealed allowing the car key's algorithm to be cloned with a little help from a computer.

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