An estimated 15 million cars are sold over the Internet each year, but buyers should be wary of purchasing any kind of Volkswagen vehicle, as researchers have just found that hackers could unlock millions of the vehicles remotely.
A homemade radio is the only hardware an attacker requires to unlock one of the many millions of vehicles that could be affected.
The problem affects a range of vehicles manufactured between 1995 and 2016 — including Volkswagens and various models from Audi, Seat, and Skoda.
Two separate methods of attack were tested on different models and described in a paper by researchers from the University of Birmingham and German security firm Kasper & Oswald.
In both cases, it was revealed that relatively cheap, homemade equipment allows hackers to listen in on the frequency of key fobs when unlocking their cars. Those signals can then be replicated using the same equipment — meaning that it can successfully pretend to be a specific key and then unlock the hacker’s car of choice.
The team of researchers recently presented their findings at a security conference in Texas.
Fortunately, their research also found that it’s not possible to start a car with the crude hacking technology. However, they’re not the only ones making advances in automobile science.
In 2011, President Obama announced an agreement made between 13 different vehicle manufacturers to increase the average fuel economy of cars built in 2025 to 54.5 miles per gallon, but certain factors in the economy are making that claim look like a rather ambitious one.
A pair of recent government reports suggested that fuel economy could possibly have a best-case scenario of 50 miles per gallon, but no more.
One way to potentially reach Obama’s lofty goal may be to reduce the weight of vehicles. Traditionally, that’s been attempted with aluminum, magnesium, or even carbon fiber.
However, there’s a surprising alternative solution: glue.
The 2017 GMC Acadia SUV makes use of an adhesive similar to the ones used by airplane manufacturers to hold together its subframe. Unlike traditional welding methods, glue holds the entire seam of a join together, increasing stiffness and allowing the manufacturer to use thinner steel.
Not only that, but this adhesive has allowed the Acadia to shave off an impressive 700 pounds.
Volkswagen may not be using glue to build their cars, but after the hacking research came to light, they certainly may be focusing on changing their unlocking mechanisms.
In addition, experts said that it would be difficult to replicate the conditions and equipment that the researchers used in their studies.