Hackers Can Use a $32 Device to Break Into Your Car and Garage Undetected

For most consumers, the DEF CON hacker convention is a place to hear about how vulnerable every single electronic device in your home is, but it serves a very useful purpose: it educates developers on how to code smarter. One of the latest scare stories to come from the conference was presented by a hacker named Samy Kamkar. Kamkar has developed a device that allows him to hack into any modern car or garage.

Taking a Look at the RollJam

During the hacker conference, Kamkar introduced a relatively cheap device he called the “RollJam.” It’s a $32 radio jamming device that is incredibly small, and designed to exploit the “rolling codes” that are so prevalent in the keyless entry systems of most vehicles. Worse yet, this same device can also be used to deactivate car alarms outright, making them largely useless.

How Does It Work?

The concept behind RollJam is incredibly simple. Kamkar said that a would-be hacker would simply plant the device near the target vehicle and wait. The victim would come out to the vehicle and press the key fob in an attempt to unlock it, but it will not work the first time. The second attempt will be successful, and while the victim may think it strange for a few minutes, they’ll likely continue about their day without giving it a second thought. The hacker would then return to the vehicle, replay the recorded code, and viola, they then have access to the car.

Rolling codes are a security measure that automakers have been using in an attempt to throw off “code grabbers” that hackers have been using for years. Vehicles that use rolling codes never reuse the same code twice, so each code should technically be unique, but RollJam has a clever way around this.

The first time the victim attempts to unlock the car, the RollJam jams the signal using two radios that emit noise onto the most common radio frequencies used by auto manufacturers. A third radio then intercepts the code needed to gain access to the car. In the second attempt the RollJam blocks the signal again, but signals the first code it picked up so the car will unlock for the victim. Meanwhile, the device retains the second code it picked up so it can be used again when the hacker retrieves the device. Scary, huh?

RollJam has Successfully Hacked a Wide Range of Vehicles from Manufacturers like Volkswagen, Toyota, and Cadillac

In the presentation, Kamkar has said he has already tested the device on multiple vehicles and had success with a decent amount of major auto manufacturers, and a few garage door openers. Kamkar believes that there are millions of automobiles out on the road today that are susceptible to hackers using this vulnerability, but many auto manufacturers are already working on alternatives to rolling codes.


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