Tesla is making it much harder for thieves to run off with your Model 3.
A new software update for the electric sedan will let vehicle owners and police track stolen cars.
The move comes after a shocking video showed criminals stealing a $75,000 Model S by remotely hacking the car’s key fob.
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Tesla is making it much harder for thieves to run off with your Model 3 (pictured). A new software update for the electric sedan will let vehicle owners and police track stolen cars
These so-called ‘relay attacks’ involve thieves intercepting the signal sent between a key fob and a car that enables keyless entry.
But the attackers in Essex, England took the scheme a step further and turned off the Model S’ remote access feature, which allows the vehicle owner to track its whereabouts.
With the update, Tesla is making it almost impossible for thieves to disable remote access.
Now, disabling mobile access will require users to enter a username and password.
If thieves want to steal your Tesla, they’ll have to get out of the GPS’ range in order to make off with the car successfully.
‘For additional security, your Tesla username and password will be required when disabling mobile access,’ Tesla explained in the software release notes.
‘To adjust the car’s mobile access setting, go to Controls > Safety > Allow Mobile Access.’
However, the easiest way to make sure your Tesla is safe from thieves is to turn off passive entry, which makes it so that the car doors automatically unlock and open up when the key fob is nearby.
The Model S owner in England could have also helped himself had he turned on PIN access.
A three-minute surveillance video shows the crooks using a tablet to pick up the signal from the owner’s nearby key fob to unlock the vehicle.
Everything seems to go off with a hitch, that is, until the high-tech hackers can’t seem to figure out how to unplug the Model S from its charging station.
In all, it only takes the thieves a few minutes to make off with Essex, England resident Antony Kennedy’s Model S.
The whole debacle could have been avoided had the vehicle owner enabled a security feature recently rolled out by Tesla, called PIN to drive, which requires a driver to enter a PIN code that’s displayed on the dashboard in order to drive the vehicle. Pictured is a Tesla key fob
They appear to use a relatively simple hacking method called a relay attack, to intercept the signal from the key fob.
One thief scans the house with his phone to pick up the signal from the key fob.
Kennedy noted that his keys were located ‘at the back of the house.’
Once the key fob signal is picked up, it’s then relayed to another device – in this case, a tablet – that’s closer to the car door.
It’s supposed to mimic the keyless entry process of holding a key fob near a vehicle to unlock it.
More and more carmakers have introduced keyless entry to their cars, but the method isn’t without its security risks.
The thieves are able to unlock the car in a matter of seconds after picking up the key fob signal, at which point the Model S lights flash and the car door opens.
Despite their smarts, the crooks waste quite a bit of time figuring out how to remove the charging cable connected to the car’s battery.
They fumble around for several minutes before one of the thieves realizes that all they had to do was push a button to undock the car from the cable.
After that, they quickly hop in the car and speed off.
The whole debacle could have been avoided had the vehicle owner enabled a security feature recently rolled out by Tesla.
Called ‘PIN to drive,’ it requires a driver to enter a PIN code that’s displayed on the dashboard in order to drive the vehicle.
The crooks seem to have done some research before stealing the vehicle, as they knew to turn off the Model S’ remote access feature, which means the owner can’t track the vehicle
However, Kennedy admitted he had forgotten to turn ‘PIN to drive’ on before the heist.
‘@elonmusk My @tesla was stolen this morning, with just a tablet and a phone extending my fob range from the back of the house,’ Kennedy wrote in a tweet.
‘I get that I should [have] enabled PIN access. I wish it was harder for them to disable remote access though. I can’t track it or disable it.’
The crooks seem to have done some research before stealing the vehicle, as they knew to turn off the Model S’ remote access feature.
This means that vehicle owner is unable to track the vehicle’s whereabouts.
According to Kennedy, Tesla claims that it would have been able to track the vehicle, but the crooks did something else that made it so they cannot see where it went.
How do thieves steal your car without the keys? The hi-tech ‘relay’ gadget that uses signals to unlock vehicles parked outside homes
What is relay theft?
Relay theft occurs when two thieves work together to break into cars which have keyless entry systems.
The thieves can use equipment to capture signals emitted by certain keys which are used to start new vehicles.
One thief stands by the car with a transmitter, while the other stands by the house with another, which picks up the signal from the key which is usually kept near the front door on a table or hook.
This is then relayed to the other transmitter by the vehicle, causing it to think the key is in close proximity and prompting it to open. Thieves can then drive the vehicle away and quickly replace the locks and entry devices.
Technically, any vehicle with keyless entry could be vulnerable to relay theft.
These included cars from BMW, Ford, Audi, Land Rover, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Mercedes cars.
How can you protect your vehicle against relay theft?
According to research by the Institute of the Motor Industry, over half of motorists are worried their car could be accessed and stolen by remote thieves.
Fifty per cent of people surveyed weren’t aware that their car might be vulnerable to cyber attacks, and while drivers shouldn’t become paranoid about the safety of their car it’s always a good idea to take precautions.
This has long been a necessary precaution in order to avoid car theft, but it’s important to make sure that your key is as far from the front door as possible so its signal can’t be picked up.
As hacking devices get more sophisticated, they may be able to pick up signals from further away.
This may seem a bit excessive, but a metal box could be the best place to store your keys overnight as the metal could block the signal being detected.
Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral, said: ‘Unfortunately, we do see a claims from customers who have had their cars stolen due to relay theft and it’s a problem that we would advise motorists with keyless cars to be aware of.
‘Despite progresses in anti-theft technology, thieves are always coming up with new ways to make off with your vehicle.
‘We are urging all of our customers to keep their keys a safe distance from the door and consider storing them in a metal box. While this may seem like an extreme solution, relay theft is an extreme practice.’
Kennedy believes that the thieves either removed the fob’s physical SIM card, which is ‘apparently easy to get to,’ or used a battery powered device to block internet access in the vehicle.
Many experts recommend vehicle owners store their key fobs in what’s referred to as a ‘Faraday cage,’ which is a container made with conducting material, like wire or mesh.
The cage is then able to block any electromagnetic fields sent out by the devices within the cage.
Tesla has also started to recommend that users turn off passive entry, in an effort to prevent these kinds of attacks in the future.
While potentially inconvenient, it could save a Tesla owner from having thieves drive off with their car in the dark.