The crooks definitely haven’t forgotten.
Despite a rash of publicity last year warning Tesla owners of the risk, yet another unlucky individual appears to have fallen victim to a so-called relay attack — losing his pricey electric car in the process. In surveillance video published to YouTube (embedded below), it seems thieves can be seen amplifying the signal from the car owner’s key fob (located inside his home) in order to trick the vehicle into thinking the fob was present.
And, after initially struggling but finally succeeding to unplug the charging vehicle, the two car thieves manage to drive away.
“My @tesla was stolen this morning, with just a tablet and a phone extending my fob range from the back of the house,” tweeted Anthony Kennedy on Oct. 20.
Mashable hasn’t independently confirmed that this video is real. We do know, however, that attacks like it have taken place in the past.
In what will come as little consolation to Kennedy, there are several ways that he could have prevented the attack. And while we are in no way here to blame the victim, perhaps Kennedy’s loss can help inform other Tesla owners on how to better protect their rides.
The most low tech manner to stop this sort of attack would be to store your Tesla key fob in a faraday sleeve when not in use. This would have prevented the thieves from picking up, and amplifying, the signal from the real key.
However, a recent software update from Tesla would have likely also prevented the theft — albeit in a different manner. Tesla recently pushed an update to Model S cars that gives owners the option of setting a PIN on the car. Much like you can set a passcode to lock down your smartphone, this allows you to set a four digit code that you are required to enter before you can drive the car.
In other other words, even if the crooks had managed to relay the key fob’s signal, the car would not driven.
Kennedy did not have this feature enabled, which is a fact that he now regrets.
“I get that I should enabled PIN access,” he notes in his tweet about the theft.
So yeah. You can bet Kennedy’s next ride, assuming he gets a replacement Model S, will have PIN protection turned on from day one.
Tesla owners out there should learn from Kennedy’s misfortune and remember that software updates designed to protect cars from theft don’t work if they’re not enabled. Thieves on the prowl for their next Model S are counting on you to forget. Try to disappoint.
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