ICT at work: Using laptops to steal cars

I wonder if Negroponte’s $100 laptop or Gates’ cellphone computer can do this… Gone in 20 Minutes: using laptops to steal cars.

High-tech thieves are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes tostealing automobiles equipped with keyless entry and ignition systems.
While many computer-based security systems on automobiles require some
type of key — mechanical or otherwise — to start the engine, so-called
‘keyless’ setups require only the presence of a key fob to start the

The expert gang suspected of stealing two of David Beckham’s BMW X5
SUVs in the last six months did so by using software programs on a
laptop to wirelessly break into the car’s computer, open the doors, and
start the engine.

“It’s difficult to steal cars with complex security, but not
impossible. There are weaknesses in any system,” Tim Hart of the Auto
Locksmith Association told the U.K.’s Auto Express magazine.
“At key steps the car’s software can halt progress for up to 20 minutes
as part of its in-built protection,” said Hart.

Because the decryption process can take a while — up to 20 minutes,
according to Hart — the thieves usually wait to find the car in a
secluded area where it will be left for a long period. That is believed
to be what happened to Mr. Beckham — the crooks followed him to the
mall where he was to have lunch, and went to work on his X5 after it
was parked.

While automakers and locksmiths are supposed to be the only groups
that know where and how security information is stored in a car, the
information eventually falls into the wrong hands.

According to the Prague Post leaving such information on a
laptop is what got Radko Souček caught for stealing several cars. “You
could delete all the data from your laptop, but that’s not good for you
because the more data you have, the bigger your possibilities,” he
says. He says any car that relies on software to provide security can
be circumvented by other software. “Every car has its weak spot,” he
says. Souček faces up to 12 years in prison.

The Leftlane Perspective: Many modern cars now rely on software entirely
for security. Gone are the days where microchips supplemented
mechanical locks as an additional security measure. In the case of true
‘keyless’ systems, software is the only thing between a thief and your
car. As computers become more powerful, will stealing cars become even
easier? Never mind future cars with better security — what about
today’s cars a few years down the road? With cars as inexpensive as the
Toyota Camry offering entirely keyless systems, these concerns a
relevant to all consumers.

Posted in ICT