The key to stealing a Tesla Model S is cloning the car's existing key fob, according to a team of security researchers at the KU Leuven university in Belgium.
At the Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems conference held this week in Amsterdam, the team will present a paper detailing the process of breaking encryption in the wireless key fobs of the Tesla Model S. It took about $600 in equipment to read signals from the fob of a nearby key, and less than two seconds of computation to learn the cryptographic key, which can be used to drive the car.
"We can completely impersonate the key fob and open and drive the vehicle," says KU Leuven researcher Lennert Wouters in a statement to Wired, which reported on the research. Over nine months, the team learned the Model S keyless system used weak 40-bit cipher encryption for its key fob codes. With those codes, they could try every possible cryptographic key until they found the right one.
Tesla issued an upgraded key fob in response to the findings and says Model S cars sold after June 2018 aren't vulnerable to this type of attack. It also recently gave drivers the option to set a PIN code to be entered on the dashboard before the car can be driven. However, if the PIN code is not enabled or the key fob isn't upgraded with stronger encryption, cars are vulnerable.
The research team believes this type of attack might work on McLaren and Karma cars, as well as Triumph motorcycles, all of which use the Pektron key fob system. However, they were not able to
gain access to those vehicles for testing. McLaren reports it's investigating the problem and, in the meantime, is offering drivers protective key pouches to protect from radio scans.
Read more details here.
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