Car Alarm Hacks 3 Million Vehicles

Pen testing isn’t about evaluating inks. It is short for penetration testing — someone ensuring a system’s security by trying to break in or otherwise attack it. A company called Pen Test Partners made the news last week by announcing that high-end car alarm systems made by several vendors have a critical security flaw that could make the vehicles less secure. They claim about three million vehicles are affected.

The video below shows how alarms from Viper/Clifford and Pandora have a simple way to hijack the application. Once they have access, they can find the car in real time, control the door locks, and start or stop the car engine. They speculate a hacker could set off the alarm from a nearby chase car. You’d probably pull over if your alarm started going off. They can then lock you in your car, approach, and then force you out of the car.

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The Bane of Aftermarket Car Alarms

The humble car alarm has been around almost as long as the car itself, first being developed by an unknown prisoner in Denver, circa 1913. To the security-conscious motorist, they make a lot of sense. The noise of a car alarm draws attention which is the last thing a would-be thief wants, and the in-built immobilizers generally stop the car being moved at all without a time-consuming workaround. Both are a great deterrent to theft.

It may then surprise you to know that I, dear readers, consider the aftermarket car alarm to be one of the most heinous devices ever fitted to the modern automobile. Combining the unholy trifecta of being poorly designed, cheaply made, and fitted by only the most untalented or uncaring people to wield a soldering iron, they are a blight that I myself refuse to accept.

It was my very own Mazda that suffered at the hands of a car alarm system. Two days after purchasing the car, the keyfob died, and thus the car would no longer start. My other car was already out of action due to bent valves, and I needed to get to work, so I figured as a competent hacker, I’d be able to quickly disable it.

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