BBC recently gave us a nice little story about electronic car keys. Bruce Schneier has covered the story as well. The gist of the story is that a lot of people had trouble opening and starting their cars in one particular parking lot. People started checking different causes for this and long suspected a rouge wireless broadband unit or something like that. It finally turned out to be another car, belonging to a commuter, with the same lock system that was sending out signals, and thus blocking the signals for all the other users.
This tells me two things.
- It is possible to block the usage of electronic keys by jamming the frequency range
- It seems that the frequency range for wlan and for car-keys are pretty close and maybe even the same.
If they use the same bandwidth I suspect that we will see a lot of young boys with laptops blocking frequencies in a car park near you, soon.
It seems that the car industry has avoided the attention of hackers so far. Or just touched the borders of them. One of the comments from Bruce Schneier’s blog put it quite well.
"I had an interesting "debugging" session a few years ago when my car battery went flat if the car was parked outside my house for more than 36 hours. Anywhere else, no problem. It turned out my new weather station transmitted on the same frequency as the keys and kept the computer awake!!
There’s lots of other car-related problems: when Land Rover first introduced the latest shape Range Rover, the tyre pressure monitoring system got confused if another identical vehicle passed you in the street.
I’ve also heard of a radio signal based fuel level monitor. Combined with an engine management system that would stop the engine before you run out of fuel to prevent expensive catalyst damage, that suggests some interesting car-jacking opportunities.
Press the remote key on someone’s 1999 Range Rover 100 times and they won’t be able to open the car.
Renault Megane’s can be unlocked and started with a MiFare 4k card – trivially clonable if you look at rfidiot.org.
The car industry hasn’t begun to feel the pain of poor security yet.