Researchers in Belgium have developed a proven and simple method to steal a Tesla Model S with ease.
You’d think in this day and age that technology would have made car theft a thing of the past. Instead, it seems to be making it easier than ever, with hackers now becoming the world’s new carjackers.
A team of academic hackers from KU Leuven University in Belgium have developed a surefire way to get access to anyone’s Tesla Model S and then drive away. All they need is about $600 of equipment consisting of two radios, a Raspberry Pi minicomputer, a portable hard drive, and a few batteries.
Their method is quite simple. First, they need to have a nearby Tesla Model S and an owner with a key fob. Once they’ve got a target, the hacker can then analyze the signal coming from the keyfob and crack its encryption using the minicomputer. Then the computer spits out a cloned version of the key fob signal, which the hacker can use their second radio to broadcast to the Model S and gain access.
After that, it’s all over. The hacker can then turn on the car and just drive away.
“Today it’s very easy for us to clone these key fobs in a matter of seconds," Lennert Wouters, one of the KU Leuven researchers, told Wired. "We can completely impersonate the key fob and open and drive the vehicle."
The ease with which hackers can steal a Model S all has to do with some weak encryption used to encrypt the key fob signal. KU Leuven researchers found out the encryption only uses a 40-bit cipher, which made it possible for the researchers to simply generate a massive database of all the possible combinations a Model S key fob can be. Then it’s a simple matter of scanning that database to find which one will defeat any particular Model S.
Tesla has since responded to the researchers by beefing up the Model S’s encryption and implementing a 4-digit PIN system, however, owners still need to contact Tesla to obtain new key fobs and activate the PIN security system. If a driver fails to do either task, then the hack will still work.
The KU Leuven researchers also believe the same process would work to steal McLarens, Karmas, and even Triumph motorcycles since they all use the same weak encryption.