Hackers steal keyless BMW in under 3 minutes (video)

Hackers steal keyless BMW in under 3 minutes (video)

Summary: It's cool to have a keyless BMW, until you no longer have a keyless BMW. Hackers have figured out how to break into such cars with ease. BMW has acknowledged there is a problem, but is not doing enough to protect its customers.

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TOPICS: Security
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Automobile enthusiasts are pointing to an unusual spike in the number of BMW thefts in the U.K. this year. Expensive cars being stolen isn't anything to write home about, but the reason for this new trend definitely is: the cars in question are keyless. Multiple BMW models are being swiped without activating car alarms or immobilizers because the thieves are hacking their way into the vehicles.

On the car forum 1Addicts, a one-time poster by the name of "stolen1m" uploaded the above video showing how his BMW was stolen in under three minutes. He suspects the thieves used devices that plug into the car's On-Board Diagnostic (ODB) port to program a new keyfob.

In this particular video, there are a few security flaws that the hackers are exploiting simultaneously: there is no sensor that is triggered when the thieves initially break the window, the internal ultrasonic sensor system has a "blind spot" just in front of the OBD port, the OBD port is constantly powered (even when the car is off), and last but not least, it does not require a password. All of this means the thieves can gain complete access to the car without even entering it.

BMW has acknowledged that there is a problem, but is downplaying this particular issue by saying the whole industry struggles with thievery. This is unfortunate given that the evidence seems to point towards BMWs being specifically targeted. Whether that's because they are luxury cars or because they have a security loophole doesn't matter: the point is BMW needs to do something about it.

"The battle against increasingly sophisticated thieves is a constant challenge for all car makers. Desirable, premium-branded cars, like BMW and its competitors, have always been targeted," a BMW spokesperson told Jalopnik. "BMW has been at the forefront of vehicle security for many years and is constantly pushing the boundaries of the latest defence systems. We work closely with the authorities and with other manufacturers to achieve this. We are aware of recent claims that criminal gangs are targeting premium vehicles from a variety of manufacturers. This is an area under investigation. We have a constant dialogue with police forces to understand any patterns which may emerge. This data is used to enhance our defence systems accordingly. Currently BMW Group products meet or exceed all global legislative criteria concerning vehicle security."

BMW needs to watch the three other YouTube videos also posted in the aforementioned forum:

This is a serious problem. New cars, especially high-end ones, no longer require a physical key to be inserted into the ignition. The previous system evolved into being much more secure because it was two-tiered: metal keys that also have a chip. This new system means stealing cars (mainly BMWs so far) is extremely easy for the sophisticated criminal.

If you want to protect yourself from this hack, look into how you can disable the OBD port on your BMW by disconnecting the corresponding wires. If you or your dealer needs it, you can always reenable it. Alternatively, you can try to further secure the port in your own custom way.

Topic: Security

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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8 comments
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  • Hacked BMW in 3 mins

    We all knew that computer technology would one day 'bite us on the rear' and this is definitely a product of that however; I am curious as to what one of the hackers dropped onto the floor? Please see footage from 1:40 to 1:45.
    pac1971
  • Hacked BMW in 3 mins

    We all knew that computer technology would one day 'bite us on the rear' and this is definitely a product of that however; I am curious as to what one of the hackers dropped onto the floor? Please see footage from 1:40 to 1:45.
    pac1971
  • Hacked BMW in 3 mins

    The "theft" supposedly occured in the U.K. Yet, the Chinese word for 'Saturday', 星期六, appears in the security camera.
    beau parisi
    • Re: Hacked BMW in 3 mins

      Firstly, the article says there are a lot of UK thefts. And the video was uploaded by a user called stolen1m. The article never said this particular theft happened in the UK or China or anywhere in particular.

      Secondly, it's possible stolen1m is Chinese and could have been using a Chinese system in UK, it's not entirely impossible.
      misosoup7
    • Re: Hacked BMW in 3 mins

      The VW also in the video has UK plates and is RHD. Probably just an imported camera system.
      mantavani
  • Identisafe - www.automobile-security.com

    Checkout Identisafe www.automobile-security.com/products.htm Fingerprint car security system.
    Identisafe
  • Interesting...

    With such a limited run production of the 1M, I would wonder how easy it would be to track the stolen car? There's probably not more than a few hundred of those for any particular country (and even fewer still with the same paint color, options, etc) It would seem like a huge liability to be driving that car around at all, and it's hardly valuable enough to just sit in a garage all the time.
    hughJ81
  • Easy

    The tool to reprogram a blank key fob cost no more than £100 the blank fob can be brought from eBay for any think upto £100
    There are mega cheap tools like ak90 that can programme any BMW upto 2011 the thing that makes keyless the easy target is no steering lock.. When I stole cars the steering lock was the deal breaker because having the car of the drive, ripping the casing off was noisy...the lock itself ain't the problem , a big adjustable spanner takes care of that but the simple fact the cowling getting ripped gets attention... Simple ecu swaps bypass most cars or take a key and ecu already programmed and simply swap em... The fact ov the matter the only way is top aftermarket alarms can stop you car getting stolen there just too much hassle to re wire so thieves will more than likely go look for the next mans car
    We-twock-anycar.com