Europol rounds up car thieves gang for hacking keyless cars

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Europol and Eurojust, in conjunction with French, Spanish and Latvian authorities, have rounded up a gang of car thieves targeting ‘keyless’ cars. 31 suspects have been arrested, including software developers, resellers and actual car thieves.

The criminals were after keyless cars from two undisclosed French manufacturers. Use was made of so-called diagnostic software with which the software of a car could be overwritten, according to Europol. In this way, the doors of the respective vehicles could be opened and the car could be started, without the actual key being nearby.

The arrests in France, Spain and Latvia have raided 22 locations, arresting more than 30 suspects and confiscating nearly 1.1 million euros worth of goods. The French cybercrime department of the Gendarmerie initiated the operation and is said to have also rolled up the website where the hacking software in question is sold.

In a keyless car, the key and the vehicle communicate contactless via a radio frequency. When the user approaches with the key, the car detects the key and the doors can be unlocked. Certain cars also have a start button, so that the vehicle can also be started without contact. The gang was after cars with both functions. In principle, the connection between the car and the key is encrypted, but the car thieves managed to overwrite the software of the cars with a program obtained online.

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