Going, going, gone – RFID car-jacking!
It’s the stuff of movies. A criminal gang that sets out to steal hundreds of cars, each in under 60 seconds, using the latest in high-tech gadgets to facilitate their heist. But for David Beckham, Hollywood fiction became a reality when in April 2006 criminals used a simple laptop and RFID scanner to crack the electronic door locks of his BMW X5. Once the locks were cracked they then fired up the ignition and drove away – gone in just 15 minutes!
So how was this possible? After all the RFID industry has gone to considerable lengths to reassure us that ‘contactless’ chips and ‘smart keys’ are 100% secure, and not vulnerable to ‘skimming’.
John Holl, a journalist with Forbes Autos throws some light on the matter saying,
“…Back in 2004, when keyless technology was still new and touted as unbreakable and secure, Dr. Aviel D. Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, examined this possibility (with his students). Within three months they had successfully cracked the code embedded within the ignition keys of newer model cars, theoretically allowing them to steal the autos.”
“It was a trial-and-error process,” Rubin said. “We wanted to see if it could be broken and found out that (surprisingly) it could!”
The technique requires a laptop, an RFID scanner and software capable of probing for encryption weaknesses. It only takes about 15 minutes for the software to explore millions of possible encryption answers, before finding the one that fits with the vehicle’s unique identity. The thieves then submit an identical code to the vehicle, which allows them to ‘boost’ it.
15 minutes – it’s not long. About the time it takes to park up, leave your vehicle and order at a restaurant, which seems to be what happened to the Beckhams. And it just goes to show that no security system is 100% fool-proof, however peace of mind may soon arrive as British company RFID Protect hopes to manufacture RFID shielding sleeves that are specifically designed to protect a vehicle’s ‘smart key’ against unauthorised probing.
Original article at:
NEWSFLASH: Update September 2012
This month sees AutoExpress reporting on a new twist to this story. It transpires that BMW has at last accepted that there is an issue with its keyless entry systems on cars issued between 2007 and September 2011. BBC’s Watchdog television programme highlighted a problem with certain models (specifically BMW X5 & X6) in June of this year, and since then a number of high profile cases have come to light. One story in particular demonstrates the problem that BMW is now facing, because when London-based consultant Eric Gallina had his car stolen from outside his home he couldn’t understand how thieves had taken it. Mr Gallina still had the two factory-issued master car keys in his possession, and there had been no evidence of vehicle break in (i.e. there was no broken window glass at the crime scene).
AutoExpress reported that Mr Gallina was told by police officers,
“…nine other BMWs with keyless entry had been stolen in the Notting Hill area within the past month and a half.”
Apologists for BMW have issued security guidance to owners of these models, although it is not clear whether an actual ‘fix’ for the problem is available at the time of writing. According to AutoExpress BMW have issued the following advice,
“…[until the fix is available to all models], where ever possible park your car out of sight, in a locked garage, or under the cover of CCTV cameras.”
Easier said than done, and some will wonder whether this guidance from BMW has really been thought through, or goes far enough to address such a serious security flaw?
Original article at: http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/bmw/60264/bmw-owners-offered-fix-hi-tech-theft