Great, Now Someone Can Steal Your Car Using A Laptop Computer

If car theft seems like a low-tech crime to you, you’re forgetting the extent to which computers are now standard car parts. Computer control of automobiles makes some cool features possible, but one of those features may be that thieves can start a vehicle using a portable computer. How? Police in Houston, where a culprit was caught on camera, aren’t actually sure how they did it.

It’s probably significant, though, that the two vehicles that the Houston cops know of that were taken using this method were Jeeps, which happen to be the same make of car that security researchers were able to take control of remotely through an exploitable flaw in the infotainment system.

One of the reported incidents in Houston has a home security video, which shows a man sitting in the driver’s seat, getting out a device and using it in the car for a few minutes, and then driving off in the vehicle.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an industry group, thefts like this are a growing trend. Someone gets in a late-model car and fiddles with an electronic device, then drives away.

“If you are going to hot-wire a car, you don’t bring along a laptop,” a senior officer in Houston’s auto theft unit pointed out to the Wall Street Journal. Or maybe you do, to perform the modern equivalent of hot-wiring. “My guess is he is tapping into the car’s computer and marrying it with a key he may already have with him so he can start the car,” the Houston officer explained.

Fiat Chrysler has already recalled vehicles due to possible cybersecurity issues, and General Motors and Tesla have also had issues with their cars’ advanced features.

It’s much more difficult than hot-wiring or simply gaining access to a victim’s keys, but thieves like to be a few steps ahead of the rest of us.

Thieves Go High-Tech to Steal Cars [Wall Street Journal]