CAN injection

Waking up to Missing Wheels: Thieves Now Stealing Cars by Headlight “CAN Injection”

Esteemed author Valentino Rossi once said, “I would have probably stolen cars if it offered the same adrenaline rushas racing.” Even though outright theft is sometimes joked about, it’s the last thing you want to have happen to you! Car thieves have seemed to not let up at all lately and have found more and more ways to get away with your beloved wheels. This method is very sophisticated and is referred to as “headlight hacking.”

Thieves now stealing cars by Headlight “CAN Injection”

Dr. Ken Tindell of Canis Automotive Labs described in a recent post just how thieves are doing this. This specific method of car theft begins not inside, but surprisingly at the front with the headlight module. The reason that thieves have picked this way to commit their crime is that there is a way for them to proceed through the CAN bus system. This is where the car’s ECUs are housed, and message each other to function.

“Gone in victim-stressing seconds”: the attack on your injection

Thieves are using this central nervous system of your vehicle to get away with your goods. A shady individual with sinister motives developed the tool in question. It is disguised as a JBL Bluetooth speaker, and successfully impersonates the car’s key fob. One car in many examples is the Toyota RAV4, but any model is at risk! First, the stealth criminals pull away trim and bumpers to get access to the CAN bus.

Many vehicles’ primary CAN systems are found deep inside the car, but modern headlights have their own ECU bank. Once the thief locates the correct wires, their black-market device goes to town. There is a “play” button that sends an instruction code to the ECUs that unlocks the doors. This dismaying device allows the thief to make off with your car by avoiding contact with the actual key fob. The last few years have been so turbulent that many car owners have a good reason to be worried!

Thwarting this stealth property theft:

Right now, there isn’t a guaranteed means of preventing this from happening to you. But, as with any news flash, there IS a bit of a bright side! A thief who is attempting to leave you empty-handed must do some pretty thorough work. To fully rip the body panels off does not happen in a flash. The wiring needed to pull this off takes quite some time as well. These positive glimmers of hope mean that the thief would have to stalk your car in a very private area.

It would be very daring to do this during the day, or even in a garage at night with other tenants. Experts have suggested that automakers could develop a software update to assist. It may be able to throw thieves off for a while, but time has proven how persistent they can be. One prevention measure could see its roots in a different approach to the volatile ECU system.

A microscopic means of detection and prevention:

There is one form of a solution that could be researched and developed very soon. If every single message from one ECU to another was under the guise of encryption, the codes would be less susceptible to hacking. If every car had its own very secret set of keys, the thief’s extractor would be impossible to create. The time and effort that this would take would still be very beneficial for its peace of mind.

The experts at Voxx Electronics had some great ideas for this problem. They are an aftermarket and OEM supplier and knew this scenario would arise. Some experts on their team claim that this may have been happening for over a decade. The reason why many thieves are now willing to invest their time is the location of the CAN bus. Now that they are in headlights, it is at least not necessary to break in.

Prepping tips to avoid pulling your hair out:

Years ago, if thieves wanted to do this, they had to somehow find their way under the dash without creating a disturbance. Completely smashing the glass was one of the only ways to succeed. The CAN method of theft is now becoming easier because the technologies that are being used to improve cars can be a curse. VOXX Electronics suggests that its Viper DS4 aftermarket system could be of help.

Since thieves are succeeding with a bypass of the OEM system, the Viper option would force them to layer on an additional hack to succeed. The full-on installation of an aftermarket system may seem daunting to some car owners. As this story develops, there could be more options that provide hope, but this type of installation would help in the meantime. Much like other habits in life, being vigilant, watchful, and cautious can help you keep your car safe.

Conclusion on CAN Injection:

We sure hope that none of our readers have fallen victim to this crime! There’s nothing worse than losing your transportation in one fast swoop. Let us know if you’ve heard anything about developments of CAN theft in the comments below, or check out another article that provides useful tips on theft prevention.

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Jon Weirman
I am a freelance writer in the Midwest who specializes in vehicles built for expert-level off-roading, and anything with a staggering amount of horsepower. In my first life I worked in broadcasting for Starz Network and Discovery Channel. I also love retro video games and sci-fi movies. Everything from the loud and burly muscle cars of the late 1970s to new crossover SUVs with futuristic tech features have populated my inbox!

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