Audi, BMW and Ford models can be hacked via key fob hack

A little while back, a team of hackers figured out how to hack into specific cars’ systems and control the entire car, via the vehicles’ navigation system. However, Audi responded to this by claiming that its cars couldn’t be hacked. According to Ricky Hudi, Audi’s Head of Electronics Department, “Our internet systems are encrypted and when we think we are at the point where the concepts are right, we regularly pay people to hack them,”

Audi does do this and spends quite a lot of money on it. In fact, Audi has learned quite a lot about keeping its vehicles secure from hackers and other malicious software, as the brand knows that the more connected and integrated cars get with our networks, the more exposed they are to outside threats. So hacking is something Audi takes very seriously, probably more so than most automakers. But apparently, according to ADAC (A German Automotive Firm), some Audi’s are still susceptible to a certain hack involving the key fob and it seems like something that is going to be a real issue in the future.

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Hacking Diagram. It's in German, but understandable.
Hacking Diagram. It’s in German, but understandable.

The hack requires two hackers but it’s fairly simple and easy to do. One hacker must be withing several meters of a car when the owner uses the key fob to interact with the car. The close hacker’s device picks up the signal from the key fob and transmits it to the other hacker’s device who’s several hundred meters away. Now those hackers have the actual key fobs signal and can unlock the car and start it as if they actually had the key fob and the car is none the wiser because the signal it’s receiving is that of its own key. It’s quite scary, actually, because it doesn’t seem too difficult to do and being that no alarm would go off, the car would be long gone by the time the owner realized it was missing. Gone are the days of braking a window and hot-wiring it.

What’s even more frightening is how this hack leaves no trace of theft, neither physical or digital, and can be done in minutes. So not only does it make cars easy to steal but it allows the thieves to easily get away with it.  “In tests, our experts were able to open cars with [keyless fob] locking system by means of a self-built wireless extension within seconds and [get away]. This left no visible burglar or tracks,” according to ADAC. And these hacking extensions can be bought online for around $200, making it cheap.

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ADAC released a list of vehicles that are affected by this hack and a few Audi’s make the list. The Audi A3, A4 and A6 are all susceptible to this sort of hack. Now, Audi is likely already working on this, because the brand likes to stay ahead of these hacking trends. But until Audi announces a fix, this can still be a real problem for many owners.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.