Arduino + Software Defined Radio = Millions of Vulnerable Volkswagens

As we’ve mentioned previously, the integrity of your vehicle in an era where even your car can have a data connection could be a dubious bet at best. Speaking to these concerns, a soon-to-be published paper (PDF) out of the University of Birmingham in the UK, states that virtually every Volkswagen sold since 1995 can be hacked and unlocked by cloning the vehicle’s keyfob via an Arduino and software defined radio (SDR).

The research team, led by [Flavio Garcia], have described two main vulnerabilities: the first requires combining a cyrptographic key from the vehicle with the signal from the owner’s fob to grant access, while the second takes advantage of the virtually ancient HiTag2 security system that was implemented in the 1990s. The former affects up to 100 million vehicles across the Volkswagen line, while the latter will work on models from Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Nissan, Alfa Romero, Fiat, Mitsubishi and Ford.

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Saving an Alarm System Remote and $100

[Simon] has been using his home alarm system for over six years now. The system originally came with a small RF remote control, but after years of use and abuse it was finally falling apart. After searching for replacement parts online, he found that his alarm system is the “old” model and remotes are no longer available for purchase. The new system had similar RF remotes, but supposedly they were not compatible. He decided to dig in and fix his remote himself.

He cracked open the remote’s case and found an 8-pin chip labeled HCS300. This chip handles all of the remote’s functions, including reading the buttons, flashing the LED, and providing encoded output to the 433MHz transmitter. The HCS300 also uses KeeLoq technology to protect the data transmission with a rolling code. [Simon] did some research online and found the thew new alarm system’s remotes also use the same KeeLoq technology. On a hunch, he went ahead and ordered two of the newer model remotes.

He tried pairing them up with his receiver but of course it couldn’t be that simple. After opening up the new remote he found that it also used the HCS300 chip. That was a good sign. The manufacturer states that each remote is programmed with a secret 64-bit manufacturer’s code. This acts as the encryption key, so [Simon] would have to somehow crack the key on his original chip and re-program the new chip with the old key. Or he could take the simpler path and swap chips.

A hot air gun made short work of the de-soldering and soon enough the chips were in place. Unfortunately, the chips have different pinouts, so [Simon] had to cut a few traces and fix them with jumper wire. With the case back together and the buttons in place, he gave it a test. It worked. Who needs to upgrade their entire alarm system when you can just hack the remote?

Key fob programming

[Fileark] has instructions for reprogramming keyless entry devices for your car. His demonstration video, which you can see after the break, shows how to make one key fob work for two different vehicles. In this case he’s working on a couple of Chevrolet trucks but there are instructions for GM, Ford, Dodge, Toyota, and Nissan. If you need to reprogram one of these you may find this useful, but we’re wondering how it can be incorporated into a project. If you can sniff out the communications that are going on during the programming you should be able to build and pair your own devices with a vehicle. Wouldn’t it be nice to incorporate your keyless entry into your wristwatch?

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Reverse engineering the Telly Terminator

[Oliver] received the Telly Terminator as a gift and decided to take a closer look at it. This key fob has two buttons; one shines an LED like a flashlight and the other turns off televisions. Sound familiar? Yeah, it made [Oliver] think of the TV-B-Gone as well.

He cracked open the case to find just a few components. The brain behind the IR signals is a Helios H5A02HP. Only a few pins are used for outputs so he connected a logic analyzer and recorded the signals. His writeup covers the process quite well. He takes a known IR transmitter protocol and compares it to the capture from the logic analyzer. It turns out that the fob generates 46 different signals and with further analysis concludes that there’s a chance the code used here is from an older version of the TV-B-Gone source.