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Hackers can unlock, steal your vehicles, NCC warns Nigerians

By Adeyemi Adepetun (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
16 May 2022   |   3:20 am
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted telecoms consumers and members of the public to an ongoing cyber-vulnerability that allows a nearby hacker to unlock a vehicle

Computer hacker or Cyber attack concept background

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted telecoms consumers and members of the public to an ongoing cyber-vulnerability that allows a nearby hacker to unlock a vehicle, start the engine wirelessly and make away with the automobile.

It said the fact that car remotes are categorised as short-range devices that make use of radiofrequency (RF) to lock and unlock cars informed the need for the commission to sensitise Nigerians to the emergent danger.

According to the latest advisory released by the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), the cybersecurity centre for the telecoms sector established by the NCC, the vulnerability is a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack or more specifically, a replay attack in which an attacker intercepts the RF signals normally sent from a remote key fob to the car, manipulates these signals and resends them later to unlock the car.

The regulator, in a statement, yesterday, by its Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Ike Adinde, observed that with the newest form of cyber-attack, it is also possible to manipulate the captured commands and re-transmit them to achieve a different outcome altogether. “Multiple researchers disclosed a vulnerability, which is said to be used by a nearby attacker to unlock some Honda and Acura car models, and start their engines wirelessly,” he said.

The NCC-CSIRT, in the advisory, offered some precautionary measures.

The unit advised: “When affected, the only mitigation is to reset your key fob at the dealership.”

Besides, the affected car manufacturer may provide a security mechanism that generates fresh codes for each authentication request. This makes it difficult for an attacker to ‘replay’ the codes thereafter. Additionally, vulnerable car users should store their key fobs in signal-blocking  ‘Faraday pouches’ when not in use.”

Most importantly, car owners in the stated categories are counselled to choose Passive Keyless Entry (PKE) as opposed to Remote Keyless Entry (RKE), which would make it harder for an attacker to read the signal due to the fact that criminals would need to be at close proximity to carry out their nefarious acts.

The PKE is an automotive security system that operates automatically when the user is in proximity to the vehicle, unlocking the door on approach or when the door handle is pulled, and also locking it when the user walks away or touches the car on exit. The RKE system, on the other hand, represents the standard solution for conveniently locking and unlocking a vehicle’s doors and luggage compartment by remote control.

RELATEDLY, the NCC, based on another detection by CSIRT, informed Nigerians on the resurgence of Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps on Google Play Store.

The warning followed the activities of criminals, who intentionally download legitimate apps from the Play Store, modify them by embedding the Trojan malware, and then upload them back to source with a new name.