Throughout the 80s and 90s, innumerable movies and TV shows taught us that stealing a car was a relatively straightforward affair. Simply break into the front seat of a given vehicle, fuse a few wires together from underneath the dash, and just like that, you’d be well on your way.
These days, hot-wiring a car has given way to a more advanced form of car theft: computer hacking. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, enterprising thieves have begun using hacking techniques in order to break into a car’s computer, start the car’s electric ignition, and drive off without so much as making a noise.
The report comes in the wake of recently released surveillance footage depicting car thieves in Houston using a laptop to turn on a 2010 Jeep Wrangler and steal it right from the owner’s driveway. Notably, a number of similarly executed thefts have been reported in the Houston area in recent weeks.
“We don’t know what he is exactly doing with the laptop,” Senior Officer James Woods of the Houston Police Department said, “but 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.”
As cars become more advanced and more akin to computers on wheels, it stands to reason that car thieves will only get more creative as the avenues for stealing a car increase. Of course, it’s not as if auto manufacturers are just going to sit idly by and address the situation reactively. Some companies, such as Tesla, have already made auto security a top priority in an effort to prevent such thefts from becoming a problem.
Remember, it was just last Summer that famed hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek managed to overtake the car of Wired’s Andy Greenberg as it was doing 70 MPH down the highway as part of a proof-of-concept experiment.