back to article Manchester car park lock hack leads to horn-blare hoo-ha

Vehicles across an entire car park in Manchester had their locks jammed on Sunday as the apparent result of a botched criminally-motivated hack. No one at the Manchester Fort Shopping Park, in north Manchester, was able to lock their car's doors on Sunday evening as a result of the attack by persons as-yet unknown. Manual …

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  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Hanlon's razor

    We had that on our street a few years back with the added benefit of houser alarms registering a jamming attempt and activating in a 30+m radius. The culprit was traced to a duff Toyota keyfob. The owner gave the keys to his toddler to play with, the kid was teething, bit on the fob and some spit permanently shorted the ON button. Apparently there was no delay and no protection in the Toyota fob design. You short the ON and it is ON - all the time transmitting at max rate. Perfect DIY jammer.

    So it is not necessarily a jammer. A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Enough of the CSMA/CD, what we need is token-ring for key fobs...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        Enough of the CSMA/CD

        While the spec for using the frequency does not spell out CSMA/CD, it says that you are entitled to use _ONLY_ X% (under 5 if memory serves me right) duty cycle. You are _NOT_ allowed to xmit non-stop.

        I tried to get that idea through to Ofcom by the way, but they did not give a damn. Basically, that clause which is present for most M2M frequencies (the 900MHz ZigBee band, the bands used by alarms, etc) is not being enforced.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Just because it's spelt TOYota does not mean you give them to your kid to play with!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        Where I live it's very common to see the chavs give their key rings to the rug rats as teething rings. I have seen the keys being launched from the buggy / pram, unfortunately not down a drain (yet) though.

        When will people realize that their keys will give the person that holds them access to their car, house...

        I don't bother trying to educate them. Stupid is punished by nature, quite often fatally.

    3. Goldmember

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      "So it is not necessarily a jammer. A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible."

      Indeed it is. But the Fort is in the shithole that is Cheetham Hill, so a hopeful but ultimately incompetent thief is the most likely culprit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        What I can't understand is how this caused so much confusion. Are people really that thick and panicky? Bloody heel, apparently even a mother was effected......

        I've had problems with fobs in the past so I just used the key. The car is now locked and thieves haven't won any advantage except costing me two seconds to turn the key in the lock.

        What a fuss about nothing.

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        @Goldmember

        Not far from Strangeways (a Manchester prison) I seem to recall.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Toyota...

      It's obvious that some people shouldn't be allowed to design cars.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      "A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible."

      That's why I avoid cars driven by toddlers

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    1) Why does the boot not lock? Are you telling me someone designed a car where the only way to lock it is via radio? Stop buying these cars.

    2) This is why you want (and have always wanted) a physical key.

    3) Why the hell were SO MANY cars affected?

    Radio locking is a convenience, only. That's it. You STILL have to physically walk up to the car to get into it, so stop being lazy and use a proper key when you get there. It can even be an electronic key, just one that has to be physically put into the lock for one of those many 1-wire protocols to negotiate with the ECU.

    There's a reason I stick behind the cutting edge with cars - because this kind of junk is rife. Car locks aren't particularly secure and I certainly don't rely on them heavily to stop whatever is in my car getting nicked - I've seen far too many easy ways to get into a car leaving varying amounts of damage. But I would have been able to lock my car, including the boot, and I'd have been able to walk away.

    Prank today. Viable attack tomorrow. Stop buying this junk and take your car back to the manufacturer.

    1. eJ2095

      Old trick that

      Think the fobs operate around the 430 mhz band.

      so i you wang out static over the frequency it will stop the fobs talking to the cars..

      I got a scanner that can listen to the frequency (yes i have tested it on my self)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old trick that

        so i you wang out static over the frequency it will stop the fobs talking to the cars..

        A $50 hand-held 70cm radio, which you're legally allowed to use if you have an appropriate license, is all that is necessary to jam these key fobs. 433.920MHz is a common centre frequency for this stuff.

        I learned this through first-hand experience (with a more expensive radio). Even though I was transmitting on 433.525MHz (to access Mt. Coot-tha repeater VK4RBC), the 5W signal was enough to de-sense the receiver in the car.

        1. Jedit

          "which you're legally allowed to use if you have an appropriate license"

          Well, I'm sure car thieves will be reassured to know that they're not illegally jamming the locks.

        2. Brian Morrison

          Re: Old trick that

          These sorts of problems have been around for decades, often because the receivers do not have any image rejection and/or are simple super-regens that can be desensed from a considerable distance with not a great deal of power. It was a little better when car remotes were on 418MHz (but not perfect, I was once able to accidentally jam someone's car alarm remote in the work car park with 10W of 434MHz Tx from about 20m away), now they're mostly in the 433.05-434.79MHz range then all it takes is a perfectly legal radio amateur and the really bad designs fall over very easily.

        3. Number6

          Re: Old trick that

          Many years ago they had problems with the local amateur repeater and the 433MHz car systems. Despite the repeater being up on the roof, the car receivers were crappy enough to be jammed by it. There have been tales of MoD Mould repeaters, also in that band, causing similar issues.

          I have no idea which idiot decided that 433MHz, a very popular amateur band, was a good place to put poorly-designed consumer electronics, but I hope their name is high on the list to be put against the wall when the revolution comes.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Old trick that

        433.920

        And yes I have a scanner, good for listening to fobs to see if they work!

        With some they literally fall apart!

      3. Blitterbug
        Happy

        Re: i have tested it on my self

        Cool! How long have you been emitting RF in the 430mHz band? I'm sure there's a scalpel-wielding boffin or two just itching to have a 'chat' with someone like you...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Headmaster

          Re: i have tested it on my self

          Cool! How long have you been emitting RF in the 430mHz band? I'm sure there's a scalpel-wielding boffin or two just itching to have a 'chat' with someone like you...

          Never, because a 433mHz signal would require an antenna that's approximately 345 685 840 metres long!

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: i have tested it on my self

            Not if it was a quarter wave stub. And yes, I see what you did there <grin>

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: i have tested it on my self

              Not if it was a quarter wave stub. And yes, I see what you did there

              Nope, that's for a half-wave dipole. A quarter-wave stub would need a nearly equally sized ground-plane to sit on. You can kludge things of course but the theory does not lie.

          2. Bloakey1

            Re: i have tested it on my self

            "Never, because a 433mHz signal would require an antenna that's approximately 345 685 840 metres long!"

            Yes but that could be wrapped around a rod a few thousand times or he could connect up to the plumbing and use that.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: i have tested it on my self

              Yes but that could be wrapped around a rod a few thousand times or he could connect up to the plumbing and use that.

              Well, if you can source that much wire, sure, but it doesn't make an antenna that's physically that long.

              In fact, it'll be a big inductor of a size big enough to give you a nasty zap of back-EMF should you try to disconnect it from power with your fingers. (And 433mHz is pretty bloody close to DC, better wait for a zero crossing!)

              That amount of wire would pose a whopping big resistance too, my bet is you'll either absorb all the power before you radiate anything, or you'll melt the coil with the heat loss.

              And who would you transmit to? You'd have to find someone willing to do the same with a receiver.

        3. Nathanial Wapcaplet

          Re: i have tested it on my self

          ITYM 430MHz? Anyways - there are many legitimate licensed users of that region of spectrum and car key fobs have zero protection from them, being ISM equipment operating on a basis of non-interference.

          Also, as a previous poster pointed out, saying you;rer only allowed to use a 5% duty cycle, that may be so, but when a device is modified either deliberately, by human hand or by baby spit, that won't be the case.

          Rules are rules, faults are faults and malicious intent is effective.

          Society is to blame for accepting shit products like this a panaceas (sp? I didn't do well in French at school ;)

      4. Pete4000uk

        Re: Old trick that

        Yep, tried it once and briefly stopped someone from getting into his car. You could cause chaos with one of those cheap Beofang or Wuxon radios

    2. Justicesays

      "1) Why does the boot not lock? Are you telling me someone designed a car where the only way to lock it is via radio? Stop buying these cars."

      Normally you can lock the boot from the drivers lock in these cases. However, it requires some obscure left/right key turning to enable it, which no-one will be able to remember without looking at the manual for the car. Probably they disabled key locking of the boot at some point with one of those combos accidentally.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Is it just me then, where every car I've ever owned locks the boot by default when you shut it and requires a key / keyfob / internal button press in order to open it?

        Why the hell would you want the boot unlocked at any point except when you're standing behind it?

        1. jeffdyer

          I think it's just you.

          If I'm unloading the car setting up for camping for example, it's kind of handy to be able to open the boot without having to use the key every time.

          And as for "every car I've ever owned", well I guess you're very young as my first four cars didn't even have central locking let alone internal boot release.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Maybe it's the other way round and only new cars do this - I'm in my late 30's, my cars are never younger than 15 years old! I haven't even yet made it to cars with the "new" number plates, I'm still on a T-Reg!

            They have all had central locking, driver boot release (a cable that runs back to front on the car, it's hardly high-tech!). and some have had remote-control boot unlock (but - again - the boot is ALWAYS locked otherwise).

            Don't want to lock the boot? Don't close it. That's how EVERY car I've ever used has worked, so I find it odd that people want to leave the boot unlocked?

          2. Dr Scrum Master
            Coat

            my first four cars didn't even have central locking

            Mine had an early version of central locking: I'd sit in the driver's seat and lean across to lock the passenger door.

            (That's me looking for the car keys.)

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          @Lee D "Why the hell would you want the boot unlocked at any point except when you're standing behind it?"

          To allow your slave family member to unload it while you stay comfortable?

        3. Japhy Ryder

          "Valet Parking" Mode

          I think it's a side effect of a "valet parking" mode whereby you can have the key in a mode whereby you can hand it to a dodgy parking attendant to park/return your car for you without being able to empty the valuables out of the boot while he's at it.

          I once had a Fiat which had this "function" implemented via physical keys as well as the fob. It always seemed utterly pointless as accessing the boot from the interior of the car was a key part of the vehicle's design.

          It was also ludicrously easy to get things out of synch by pressing the wrong button on the fob and generating a steady stream of expletives which soundly jammed any human auditory systems within earshot.

          The only vehicles I've never had problems with had physical keys only and no central locking or other "convenience features" whatsoever. Under such a system, the overhead in locking/unlocking and checking the status of the various locks is a matter of seconds and any errors could only be blamed on the owner, which makes you wonder why the manufacturers didn't just stick with it and save themselves a fortune in R&D while retaining a cast iron "not our fault."

    3. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: Why does the boot not lock?

      Because many people have no idea where the mechanical lock for their boot is. It's not unknown for you to need to remove the rear number plate to find the keyhole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why does the boot not lock?

        and some cars just don't have one at all.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another reason for a physical key..

      I prefer a physical key in the dash because of another reason: it's the only cut-out you have in a modern drive-by-wire car. If the car I want doesn't come with a physical key, the first thing I'll install is an electrical cut-out so I can kill the thing when something goes haywire (probably have the garage install it so it maintains warranty).

      It has already been proven to be perfectly possible to lock up brakes and gears (via hacking from a distance as well as controller failures) so you need an emergency cut-out or you're history.

      1. Fink-Nottle

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        my worry with keyless ignition is that if you nip out of the car and leave the engine running, you could end up unable to restart your car in Edinburgh because your keys are on the hall table in London.

        1. Vince

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          I believe you have to maintain the "key in the area" thing - so the theory being that wouldn't work.

          I have no idea if in practice, the car would stop, moan a bit (like the seatbelt warning in most, but not all cars) or apply brakes.

          Anyone have any real world experience on how keyless start works in practice?

          1. Fink-Nottle

            Re: Another reason for a physical key..

            > I believe you have to maintain the "key in the area" thing - so the theory being that wouldn't work.

            You'd think so, but are some shared experiences on Jaguar XF forum that show thing are different in practice.

      2. Irongut

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        "It has already been proven to be perfectly possible to lock up brakes and gears (via hacking from a distance as well as controller failures) so you need an emergency cut-out or you're history."

        You realise that as soon as you turn the key you will also turn off the powered steering? Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          You realise that as soon as you turn the key you will also turn off the powered steering? Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed.

          Steering assist is only really needed at lower speeds. I want to have the option of choosing between heavier steering or killing the whole thing completely so I can stop the vehicle either on engine or handbrake (which by law still has to be mechanical, but is usually no match for the types of engine I prefer). No cut out, no choice.

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Another reason for a physical key..

            Only at lower speeds - depends on your car. With a 2.5 ton American V8, you always need steering assist and brake assist.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another reason for a physical key..

              With a 2.5 ton American V8, you always need steering assist and brake assist.

              Another reason not to buy one. My 2.2 ton European V8 has no such problems..

        2. glen waverley

          turn off by key

          And on some cars, but probably not modern ones, turning the engine off by key could cause the steering lock to engage. Not a good thing in a moving car

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            Re: turn off by key

            And on some cars, but probably not modern ones, turning the engine off by key could cause the steering lock to engage. Not a good thing in a moving car

            I think that only happens when you actually pull out the key - just turning it to an "off" position will not cause the steering lock to engage. That is, in the cars that I have used, I don't know if this applies to all makes but it strikes me as a sensible safety measure.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          "Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed."

          But being unable to control your vehicle if the electronics go haywire is OK with you, is it?

          You might lose power steering but it is still steerable - or you could use the handbrake but even those are going electronic these days.

          I really, really, really, do NOT like all the electronics in cars these days, which is why I shall probably hang on to my 14 year old car as long as possible. It has enough electronics for my liking, mostly for making hte engine more efficient.

      3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        I was just wondering how unsafe it all seemed. And just pulling the battery out is no security I take it?

      4. Whit.I.Are

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        >>If the car I want doesn't come with a physical key, the first thing I'll install is an electrical cut-out so I can kill the thing when something goes haywire

        Paranoid?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          Paranoid?

          I've been working with computers long enough to ensure there's always a backup, especially when that computer has the potential of killing me if it goes haywire.

          In my opinion, SkyNet will happen the moment someone comes up with the idea of hardwiring it into the power grid. As long as we ensure computers have plugs, A.I won't worry me :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While I understand your sentiment, I would hardly call a remote key fob cutting edge.

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