It used to be a car thief carried a brick, a crowbar or a coat hanger to work. Nowadays car thieves never go to work without electronic gizmos and gadgets. The onus is now on any self-respecting car thief to be part hacker! A Swiss-made security device called a Megamos Crypto system…using it is said, a relatively simple encryption…has sold over 100 million radio frequency identification chips designed to verify the identity of the ignition key. Twenty-six car manufacturers have bought them, including Audi Fiat, Honda, Volvo, Volkswagen, Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche and Maserati. Unfortunately, it is claimed a security ‘loophole’ exists in the Megamos chip, allowing thieves to electronically ‘hotwire’ immobilisers within 30-minutes by discovering the vehicle’s security code within the key fob’s transponder. Car thieves, or ‘scammers’ as they prefer to be known, electronically eavesdrop on the key fob signal, and then by using a commercially available computer programme, analyse it and then emulate it. The immobiliser then decodes the signal and starts the engine.
London appears to be the current hotbed for electronically hotwiring vehicles, where 4 out of 10 car scammers feature electronic hacking methods. Before offering it for sale, one would have thought the Swiss company that developed the Megamos Crypto system would have paid 10 hackers to attempt ‘crack’ its encryption system, with whoever succeeded within say 20/30 minutes, getting a cash bonus! Then again, perhaps the developers already knew of the security loophole? What is the point of spending 50-grand on a car only to secure it with a steering wheel brace? The Swiss should stick to what they do best; Watches, chocolates, cuckoo clocks and hiding other people’s money!