It’s freaky enough when hackers can disable brakes, control a steering wheel or shut down an engine as a vehicle goes down the road. But hacking can happen when a car is vacant, and there’s apparently a device making its way over from Europe that tricks keyless systems into unlocking and starting a car for theft.
According to the Los Angeles Times, not much is known about this particular device. The LA Times reports that the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a non-profit organization created by people in the insurance industry and based in Illinois, got the device from a third-party security expert at an overseas company—whatever that means—and began testing with it.
The device works by using two sets of equipment, according to the LA Times. A thief holds the first device while a car owner parks and locks the vehicle, picking up the signal sent from the key fob to the car. The second device picks up that signal, then tricks the car into thinking the device is the key fob. With a keyless start, a car susceptible to the device then unlocks and authorizes the car to start.
The organization tested 35 different vehicles with the device, and USA Today reports that the device opened 19 of them. Of those opened, they were able to start and drive away in 18 of them. According to the LA Times, some of the vulnerable cars included the 2015 Ford Edge, 2016 Chevrolet Impala, 2017 Toyota Camry and the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.
While that isn’t exactly comforting, there probably isn’t much to worry about on the U.S. side of things yet. The organization heard of the device being used in Europe and entering the U.S., but according to the LA Times, there are no reports from U.S. law enforcement that indicate the device has been used to steal a car on this side of the pond yet.
As the LA Times reports, this is one of several technologies used to hack into keyless entry systems. On top of that, just look at all of the different ways a modern car can be hacked. It’s a very comforting world we live in, you know.