A microwave oven or a refrigerator can really save your car from being stolen. Whosoever thinks only a computer or smartphone user can be targeted by a cybercriminal, should be warned that they are the biggest fools. Any technology user can become cyber attacker’s victim. Reetwika, a cybersecurity consultant, gives invaluable tips, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Well, it’s not a James Bond kind of science fiction, even you can also turn it to reality very easily. A microwave oven can really save your car from being stolen. Whosoever thinks only a computer or smartphone user can be targeted by a cybercriminal, let me warn they are the biggest fools. Any technology user can become cyber attacker’s victim. Read my column below to discover how to make it possible.
In order to try this tactic, you have to first understand the background of a typical carjacking attempt – what it means, various types, how it can be done, vulnerable car engine types, the technologies exploited by cyber criminals, common fallouts, etc.
As we all know, car theft or any kind of vandalism related to a car is known as Carjacking. It can be a physical attempt or virtual. By virtual, we essentially mean nowadays burglars can steal a car even from miles away just like any man-in-the-middle cyber-attacks. The physical distance of the attacker from your car depends on the strength of his wireless access point and your vehicle’s advanced features. With the rising popularity of keyless technology in the automobile industry, the high-end cars have become cyber criminal’s soft targets.
Mainly those vehicles with radio navigation system, automatic technology, wireless infotainment features, switch start combustion engine, power steering, auto wiper sensors, remote locks, electronic door openers etc., are more vulnerable to virtual carjacking.
There are various ways by which carjacking can be attempted. We will look into the anatomy of the trendiest and simplest one here. Let us assume you stay at the top floor of a building with an open car parking slot at the basement and you own an auto start car with a remote lock. Every evening after returning from office, you park your car at the designated slot, put the handbrake on, lock the car with smart keys, recheck all doors and windows, take the elevator to your floor, open the flat door, hang the car keys on a beautiful wall rack and enjoy a peaceful time.
Now imagine, a couple of carjackers who have already noted your daily routine is hiding silently at the apartment’s backyard, waiting for your return. The moment you switch on your room lights atop, they play the trick. Next morning, you see your car missing from the parking lot.
You must be wondering, what made it possible? After double verifying all the car doors, windows, engine, and handbrake before leaving, where could it go wrong? Why did not your burglar alarm ring? Very simple. You did your job perfectly but it’s the smart key fob which betrayed you. Let me explain the course of operation followed by the carjackers.
The remote-control keys of a car work on simple wireless technology and by now after reading my previous two articles on wireless attacks, you must be aware how easy it is to hack. Radiofrequency spoofers (RFID transmitters with up to 1000 feet range) are openly available in local shops selling contemporary car accessories at affordable rates. At times, you will even find them being sold by few unpopular e-commerce sites with poor seller governance. Thus, procuring such devices is not a big deal anymore. Those gadgets also come with an inbuilt functionality to tap radio frequency and relay it via wireless to a similar device without creating any noise or alarm.
The entire carjacking could have been done with just a pair of small wireless spoofers. That’s it. The antenna first activates the car keys kept inside your room, forces it to respond to its radio signals, then taps the frequency from its response and transmits it to the other device held near the vehicle. As a result, the wireless receiver embedded in your car ignites the engine as a legitimate remote signal.
One of the thieves yesterday might have followed you to your floor with the device, tapped the radio frequency from original car keys hung on your wall rack and relayed the signal to his partner standing near the car with the other paired spoofer in the vicinity. Your car got fooled thinking that the signal was coming from the original keys. Eventually, the doors got unlocked and started the engine. No reason for burglar alarm arose. Bingo! What else did they need to drive your car away?
With the upsurge in automatic vehicle sale, repeated carjacking cases have been reported in UK, Germany, and US since 2016. Car manufacturers offering high-end wireless features have started working on additional security controls to prevent such thefts. But until that time, you may follow my simple tips to outsmart the hi-tech robbers.
1. Do not keep the car key remote openly or hung on walls. They can be tapped through wireless spoofers very easily as there are hardly any security controls in place in the existing models.
3. You may keep it wrapped in aluminium foils or an aluminium box but there must not be any air leak. Even a micro exposure can be exploited by radio frequency tapping devices.
4. The safest way of preventing wireless tapping is to place it inside a non-functional microwave oven. But you must ensure not to start it with the keys inside, else it will have devastating impacts.
5. You may also like to invest in power steering security locks available online or at car accessory shops to put an additional safety so that even if the engine gets ignited, the car cannot be driven.
6. If your budget permits, you may also purchase radioprotectors available online (Faraday’s RFID blocking sleeves are reliable and comparatively inexpensive) and shield your wireless key fob chain with it.
7. Physical security is also very critical to prevent cyber-attacks. You should always lock your car wheels while in parking so that the carjacker’s job becomes increasingly difficult. They will certainly look for easier targets rather than taking an extra risk with your car.
Essentially, the simplest way to prevent virtual carjacking is to protect the wireless key fob with multi-metallic layers which cannot be intruded by radio frequency radiations. The strength lessens with further physical distance from the source.
Photos from the Internet
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Reetwika Banerjee is a Cyber Security Expert presently associated with a US consulting giant. She holds international MBA degree in Information System & Security and aims to be the face of women in security. During leisure hours, she enjoys writing books, news columns, travel blogs and films. She holds 2 World Records and 3 National Records for devising three innovative concepts in Modern Literature. A native of Kolkata, she is now a resident of Bangalore.