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September 2, 2016 AT 5:55 pm

$40 Homemade ‘Arduino radio device’ can Intercept Vehicle Key Fobs – More Than 100 Million Cars are Vulnerable

Well this is shocking-not-shocking. A new “trivial” radio hack powered by Arduino allows vehicle key fobs to be intercepted. Specifically, the hack allows entry to every Volkswagen vehicle sold over the last two decades, totaling more than 100 million vehicles.

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Both attacks use a cheap, easily available piece of radio hardware to intercept signals from a victim’s key fob, then employ those signals to clone the key. The attacks, the researchers say, can be performed with a software defined radio connected to a laptop, or in a cheaper and stealthier package, an Arduino board with an attached radio receiver that can be purchased for $40. “The cost of the hardware is small, and the design is trivial,” says Garcia. “You can really build something that functions exactly like the original remote.”

Of the two attacks, the one that affects Volkswagen is arguably more troubling, if only because it offers drivers no warning at all that their security has been compromised, and requires intercepting only a single button press. The researchers found that with some “tedious reverse engineering” of one component inside a Volkswagen’s internal network, they were able to extract a single cryptographic key value shared among millions of Volkswagen vehicles. By then using their radio hardware to intercept another value that’s unique to the target vehicle and included in the signal sent every time a driver presses the key fob’s buttons, they can combine the two supposedly secret numbers to clone the key fob and access to the car. “You only need to eavesdrop once,” says Birmingham researcher David Oswald. “From that point on you can make a clone of the original remote control that locks and unlocks a vehicle as many times as you want.”

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