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NCC alerts car owners on tricks hackers use to unlock and steal vehicles

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NCC announced that a nearby hacker can unlock some Honda and Acura car models and start their engines wirelessly.

In a statement on Saturday, Ikechukwu Adinde, NCC’s director of public affairs, said the notice was in accordance with the latest advisory released by the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) of the commission, the cybersecurity centre for the telecom sector.  

NCC said 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, and re-sends them later to unlock the car at will.

It added that the latest type of cyber-attack can 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. The attack consists of a threat actor capturing the radio frequency (RF) signals sent from your key fob to the car and resending these signals to take control of your car’s remote keyless entry system,” the CSIRT said. 

It, however, offered some precautionary measures that could be adopted by car owners to prevent falling victim.

“When affected, the only mitigation is to reset your key fob at the dealership,” it said.

“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.”

It added that car owners in the stated categories are advised 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 as criminals would need to be at close proximity to carry out their operations.

The PKE is an automotive locking system that operates automatically when the holder is in proximity to the vehicle.Advertisement

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.

Additionally, in a related advisory, the NCC, based on another detection by CSIRT, announced the resurgence of joker trojan-infected android apps on the Google Play store. 

“This arose due to the activities of criminals who intentionally download legitimate apps from the Play Store, modify them by embedding the Trojan malware and then uploading the app back to the Play Store with a new name,” it said. 

“The malicious payload is only activated once the apps go live on the Play Store, which enables the apps to scale through Google’s strict evaluation process. Once installed, these apps request for permissions that once granted, enable the apps to have access to critical functions such as text messages and notifications.” Advertisement

Consequently, it said a compromised device would subscribe unwitting users to premium services, billing them for services that do not exist.

“A device like this can also be used to commit Short Messaging Service (SMS) fraud while the owner is unaware,” CSIRT added. 

“It can click on online ads automatically and even use SMS One Time passwords (OTPs) to secretly approve payments. Without checking bank statements, the user will be unaware that he or she has subscribed to an online service. Other actions, such as stealing text messages, contacts, and other device data, are also possible.

“To avoid falling victim to the manipulation of hackers deploying Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps, Android users have been advised to avoid downloading unnecessary apps or installing apps from unofficial sources.”

The NCC also advised telecom consumers to ensure that apps installed from the google play store are heavily scrutinised before download. 

“Conclusively, the NCC recommends that unauthorised transactions be checked against any installed app. Indeed, any apps not in use should be deleted while users are also advised to ensure that a device is always patched and updated to the latest software,” it said. 

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