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 …

Hmm.

Just a thought.

The phrase "Too smart for their own good." came to mind when I read this piece.

My Mini Cooper S has three manual keys. One for the ignition, one for the doors and one for the filler cap. The immobilser is the only electronic key on the car and that HAS been a right PITA at times.

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It's time for a new IoCK

(Internet of Car Keys)

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M_W

There is another possibility

In York there used to be an issue near the Vue cinema where there was a branch of 'Frankie and Benny's' that used to have those 'Your Table is Ready' plastic flashing pagers.

The problem with the pagers was that the frequency they used to transmit on was also 433Mhz - which meant that most people trying to park their cars outside the site used to suffer with the same issue - they couldn't lock their cars if they parked too close to the restaurant.

My car (a hateful Peugeot 407SW) used to suffer with this - I really couldn't park it anywhere near the restaurant as I couldn't lock/unlock it. The first few times I thought it was my car being duff when parking for the cinema, and once I got totally locked out of my car. I worked out that if I moved it further away down the other end of the car park it would lock/unlock fine.

Eventually they changed the pagers in the restaurant and the issue stopped happening.

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Anonymous Coward

I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

Nothing to do with this article, I just want to say I'm sorry for my lack of taste and things are better now.

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Re: I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

Thats OK Jeremy we will forgive you this time

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Re: I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

I have a few cars, one of them is an Opel Tigra and is a brilliant fun car. Mine used to be a rally car back in it's day and none of it's drivers were ever rent boys or prostitutes despite what Clarkson said.

Current fave car is special edition EOS, perfect for the weather and roads in Southern Europe.

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FAIL

This was in Manchester?

Manchester England, yes?

And were any cars were on fire? No?

So, El Reg, what the FUCK does a picture of American Firefighters attacking a burning American car with axes have to do with this story?

Please stop with this "Hero Image" bullshit, it's getting really stupid now.

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Silver badge

Re: This was in Manchester?

Its in Manchester... I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a car on fire.

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Re: This was in Manchester?

Can't be Manchester, it still has all its wheels...

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Picture Question

If the incident happened in Manchester, UK, why is the picture heading the article of American firefighters attacking an American car in, presumably, America?

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Foreign equipment

My father-in-law had some wireless headphones he had bought in Malaysia. Whenever he used them the remote locking for my car would not work if parked outside.

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Silver badge

How does a radio jammer magically pull the key out of my pocket, put it into the lock and turn it?

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Silver badge

Someone else had complete control over all of our cars for well over half an hour.

Hysterical much? It isn't as if somebody else was driving around with their cars.

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Silver badge

Re: Someone else had complete control over all of our cars for well over half an hour.

"Proof of concept". Maybe you've heard of it?

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Coat

Yay for pants old cars

If you don't have remote central locking, you don't have this problem, though I went as far as buying a car where the central locking is only operated from the driver's door :S

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Bronze badge

Fobs - Old Hat

I don't use fobs or keys, I have facial recognition, I just head butt the door near the locking mech and hey presto, it opens. Now just have to get it to start using my old trouser snake !

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Boffin

Re: Fobs - Old Hat

>> Now just have to get it to start using my old trouser snake !

A microcontroller system, then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fobs - Old Hat

A nano tube? :)

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Silver badge

Bah!

So why aren't the locks designed to lock when the door is closed and only open for a transmission or a physical key ( or, of course, a pull on the interior door handle)? This has all the hallmarks of cheap, bad engineering.

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Seriously?

Seriously? You press the lock button on the door (or console, depending on brand and model) and shut the door. I have never seen any vehicle that had electronic locks and a key fob that didn't also have a manual switch.

Now, I have seen a few models that required a fob to unlock the doors and didn't even have a keyway on the driver's door - but that doesn't prevent you from locking the rest of the doors.

This reminds me of the jokes about the [insert stereotype here] who couldn't unlock the door to their convertible and get in... when the top was already down.

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The 433Mhz band

The 433Mhz band is licensed as low power frequency band.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LPD433

It is also common to use 868Mhz for wireless sensor (LTE interference is now a problem in that frequency). I don't know about car keys.

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My own experience

Being from the other side of the pond as you guys, I don't often join in the conversation, but for once, I have my own relevant experience to share.

Several years ago, I had a '96 Thunderbird that had a key fob. One day, having stopped in to get a bite to eat, I hit the button to unlock the doors on my car while I was next to a 2000s (not sure exact year) Chevy Impala. This made the Imp's alarm sound twice before popping open the trunk (a.k.a boot). The Imp's owner - sitting in the outside dining area - looked just as surprised as I was. Before then, I thought that it would be pretty close to impossible for a key fob from one manufacturer and one decade to have any effect on a car from another manufacturer and another decade.

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We encountered this problem

There was a large carpark near one of our installations and an empty building nearby

The criminals had setup a jammer on 433.92Mhz to operate between 5pm & 10pm weekdays & all weekend

We operate monitoring equipment on that frequency and every day between 5 & 10pm and the weekend, we couldn't recieve any signals from the equipment.

I ended up sitting outside with a portable radio scanner for 2 evenings to figure it out, we contacted the police and the problem went away the next day.

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Silver badge
FAIL

No one ... was able to lock their car's doors

What!

Even all the people with older cars with purely mechanical locks?

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plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

There was a time when a teaspoon was all you needed to unlock a car. The door locks we that bad. I once saw someone unlock his Ford Escort with the key to his house. The steering locks weren't that much better either. And if all else failed there was also the half a brick method, which still works today.

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Silver badge

Re: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

*nods* I once opened a Toyota Celica door for a young lady who had locked herself out and the keys in. I used the otherwise useless "fish-hook disgorger" blade on mi' trusty Swiss Army Knife.

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Schiphol Airport

Try parking a motorbike (or quite a few cars, apparently) with an alarm/immobiliser at Schiphol. The bike park is very close to the main ATC comms antennas. Now, being a bike, the alarm/immobiliser will generally cut in about 30 seconds after you kill the ignition, so that bit's fine. It's when you come back and try to de-immobilise it that the fun starts. Better learn your override sequence and how to use it!

Not much fun at 1AM on a December morning, when it's -9C and you need petrol, so have to do it all again on the forecourt a couple of hundred yards away.

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Gold badge

"The whole Manchester car park horn-blare omnishambles raises wider questions about the security and reliability of electronic door locks."

Reliability? The ones on my car died like 5 years ago. The range started to get very low, and I found with the spare it was very low too. Replaced the battery on one and reprogrammed it, very poor range. Then no range at all (i.e. doesn't work.) I've assumed the antenna on the car module broke?

Anyway... I guess this shows people are pretty stupid (for standing around because "the car won't lock" instead of locking the car manually), but not as stupid as thieves think (they didn't walk away from their cars just assuming it locked because they pushed a button, as this particular exploit seems to assume people will do.)

"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..."

Really they have nothing to say, 430mhz is an ISM band; ISM band users are not permitted to intentionally cause interference, and must accept interference from other users. As a practical matter, ham radio rules also prohibit just transmitting dead air or the like too, I would guess even if a 70cm operator was right next to your car, they'd usually only be on the air long enough for you to be "huh, let's try pushing the unlock a second time" and having it work then.

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Why does this not happen more often??

The 434MHz license exempt allocation that car key fobs work on, is shared with many other services and systems. Amateur radio, telemetry systems, house wireless alarms... The list goes on. So I am surprised that these problems don't occur more often.

Being license exempt (under UK law) means that no radio license is needed to operate on it, but also that no protection is given in law. It's the same situation as the WLAN bands.

The recovery/breakdown companies are aware of the problems. Their only cure is to tow the affected vehicle away from the interfering signals and try opening the car again.

As already mentioned, you don't have to make jamming equipment. Reasonably powerful transmitters are available on eBay cheaply, as walki-talkies, that will (illegally) tune onto the key fob frequencies.

You can also buy handheld radios that operate directly on these shared keyfob channels, quite legally.

In the UK, key fobs were on the 418MHz allocation, which was less prone to interference. But OFCOM deprecated that in favour of the EU allocation at 434MHz.

I suspect that this incident is far less likely to be a of criminal intent. As what would be gained by having lots of angry people milling around the car park. It's more likely to be a school boy prank, or just unintentional interference from another legal user of that same spectrum.

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Silver badge

Nobody ever listens to me

Now about that IoT cloud thingy....

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The worst thing about this incident is she uploaded the video to her Facebook with the wrong orientation.

#achingneck

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