This is how thieves do to easily steal luxurious Tesla models

This is how thieves do to easily steal luxurious Tesla models
This is how thieves do to easily steal luxurious Tesla models

Relay attacks allow thieves to start cars without the owner being present. (WIRED video capture)

Car thefts have increased in recent years due to several factors, such as TikTok, which revealed how easy it is to steal some vehicles, and advances in keyless entry technology. A recent report from Wired highlighted how ultra-wide keyless entry systems, adopted by high-end cars like the Tesla Model 3, have not reduced these thefts.

The researchers of GoGoBytean automotive cybersecurity firm based in Beijingthey demonstrated Wired which can carry out a relay attack against the last Model 3. Using less than $100 worth of radio equipment, they managed to unlock the car instantly, despite a technological upgrade.

Jun Lifounder of GoGoByte and experienced car hacking investigator, stated that “it is a warning to the public: simply having ultra-wide technology enabled does not mean that your vehicle will not be stolen.”

Relay attacks They occur when a thief manages to capture the car key signal and emit it at a greater distance, allowing him to unlock and start the car without the need for the owner’s physical presence.

Although Tesla incorporated an ultra-wideband radio system to prevent these types of attacks, it appears that it has not worked as expected. According to the report, investigators were able to open, start and steal a Model 3 from a distance of up to 4.5 meters from where the key was located.

In theory, this technology should have allowed more precise measurements between the car and the key to prevent theft. Although a 2020 patent from tesla promised greater security through the implementation of this technology, the results have not been as expected.

The increase in relay attacks on cars like the Tesla Model 3 highlights the need for more robust methods to protect high-end vehicles (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

According to the explanation provided by the company following GoGoByte’s findings, “this behavior is expected, as we are currently working on improving the reliability of ultra-wideband technology.”

He Tesla keyless entry system It also controls the car’s immobilizer function, designed to prevent theft. However, a hacker could start the car and drive it in a matter of seconds unless the owner enables the optional PIN-to-drive, which requires a four-digit code to be entered before starting the vehicle. Li emphasized the importance of this optional safeguard: “Using relay attacks, it’s still like old times for thieves.”

Relay attacks They have been a modern and low-cost technique to steal numerous vehicle models. The principle is simple: a radio device near the car transmitting the signal from the real key, which may be tens or hundreds of meters away.

This modality allows thieves to steal cars without effort, while the owners sleep at home or are in a cafe, a situation that was experienced Yuqiao Yangresearcher of GoGoByte: “They could be holding a relay device and then their car could be driven.”

Quartz noted that to prevent these attacks, car owners are advised to keep keys inside Faraday bags, which block radio signals, or even in the freezer. However, researchers believe manufacturers must develop keyless entry systems that accurately measure the time between the signal sent by the key and its reception by the car. In this line, tesla claimed in 2020 that its new technology based on time-of-flight measurement would be immune to relay attacks.

Tesla Model 3, despite ultra-wide technology, has not reduced thefts (REUTERS/Peter Cziborra)

Joseph Rodriguezresearcher of IOActivewho has previously demonstrated relay attacks against the tech giant’s vehicles, commented: “My understanding is that it may take time to find a point where relay attacks can be prevented without affecting the user experience.”

Although this technology is not yet fully implemented for vehicle safety, the company led by Elon Musk You could use OTA software updates to solve this problem.

In addition to tesla, other automakers that have also adopted ultra-wide communications technology remain vulnerable to relay attacks. Meanwhile, some studies indicate that company cars are less likely to be stolen due to GPS connectivity, which allows owners to track their vehicles in real time.

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