Retro gaming emulators are all the rage these days. You’ve got classic consoles coming back in miniature form, home-built arcade cabinets made from credit card-sized computers, even new accessories coming out for twenty-year-old consoles. Three Yorkshire men, however, took a different approach with their classic gaming enthusiasm — using a replica Game Boy case to disguise their state-of-the-art Mitsubishi Outlander theft technology.
Yes, you read that right. This Game Boy is actually a high-tech system for stealing cars — specifically, for stealing Mitsubishi Outlanders. The device allegedly cost over $20,000, and it apparently only works on Mitsubishi’s reasonably-priced crossover.
If you think that sounds like a lot of investment for relatively little return, you aren’t thinking on the scale of these Yorkshire thieves. They made off with five separate Outlanders before West Yorkshire police tracked the group down. The cops found the device in a “secret compartment” in the thieves’ car, along with video from one of the mens’ phones demonstrating the fake Game Boy’s use.
While West Yorkshire police haven’t confirmed how the device works, some have theorized that it’s a version of the “relay attack” used on wireless key fobs. Malware analyst Marcus Hutchins took to TikTok in the wake of these thefts to discuss how those attacks work:
Since police only found one device, it’s unclear if another one (maybe disguised as an Atari Lynx?) was used to transmit owners’ key signals. If not, this retro handheld console may be capable of replicating and transmitting its own key signal — something normally prevented by a key’s encryption.
In either case, these thefts serve as a stark warning about the continual encroachment of tech into cars. Without proper attention paid to software vulnerabilities, new exploits can pop up at any time. Say what you will about manual door locks, but there’s certainly no need to air gap them.