Did you know that your new car can be stolen through the headlights?

Despite manufacturers’ efforts to secure vehicles against theft, thieves are always one step ahead. They continually devise sophisticated methods to steal vehicles unnoticed within a few minutes. The latest method involves a simple tool resembling a Bluetooth speaker, which can be obtained on the dark web. The security portal Security Week reported on this issue.

How does this method of theft work?

This problem was discovered by automotive industry researcher Ian Tabor, shortly after his Toyota RAV4 was stolen while parked in front of his house. It involves the use of “CAN injection”—a straightforward exploitation of the connectivity of electronic control units (ECUs) to unlock and start a vehicle.

Modern vehicles have several ECUs, each responsible for a different system, such as headlights, air conditioning, engine control, and the smart key that unlocks and starts the vehicle. The control units are interconnected via Controller Area Network (CAN) buses, which serve as a connecting and communication element.

Thieves don’t need to connect directly to the electronic control unit of the smart key. They only need to access the headlight wiring, provided the headlight and the smart key control unit are on the same CAN bus. They simply dismantle the headlight and then connect a hacking device to its wiring, resembling a Bluetooth speaker, which is sold on the dark web for approximately €5,000. It is often promoted as a device for emergency starts, assisting vehicle owners who have lost their keys. Through this device, they send a specially modified message to the smart key control unit, confirming the key’s verification. This allows them to unlock and start the vehicle and leave, all within approximately 2 minutes.

Several brands are at risk

Although this attack was carried out on a specific model, other vehicle brands using CAN buses are also at risk. These buses are present in many modern cars. Thieves can easily obtain similar hacking devices for brands such as Toyota, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen, Honda, and more.

How to defend against “CAN injection” theft?

Since this is a new method of vehicle theft, manufacturers themselves have not yet come up with an adequate solution. However, there are several ways to protect your vehicle from similar theft attempts.

An ideal solution is additional security through a suitable car alarm. When choosing, ease of use and functionality should weigh heavily. One option is securing your vehicle through the Pandora Alarm system, which offers advanced encryption technologies and multi-layer protection—all without sacrificing user comfort.

A user-friendly Bluetooth application is also available, providing you with a perfect overview of your vehicle’s status and location 24/7 on your smartphone. Thanks to various sensors, you always know what is happening with your car and can prevent theft attempts, such as “CAN injection.” Additionally, Pandora is resistant to the replacement of the control unit. This means that without the presence of the authorization key or another device, it cannot send a CAN bus message.

If Pandora Alarm security has caught your interest, contact our distributor for your country and our colleagues will get in touch with you shortly.

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