The Game Boy gang: a few seconds to steal cars

In the UK, a gang of thieves was able to steal cars with extreme ease, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the "keyless" system: all they needed was a (fake) Game Boy

Many of those who, in the 90s, had or dreamed of a Nintendo Game Boy are now in their 40s and dream of, or have, an SUV, perhaps a hybrid. If you fall into this category of former gamers, today busy workers who have no time at all to relax with video games, know that someone could use a Game Boy to steal your SUV. Or rather: something that looks like a Game Boy.

The news, launched by the BBC in the United Kingdom, is going around the world in these hours: in Yorkshire the police arrested a gang of car thieves who had already stolen five SUV Mitsubishi Oulander PHEV (the plug-in hybrid version that recharges "on tap") using a device worth 20 thousand pounds (at current exchange rate about 23,500 euros) disguised as a Game Boy. Three people arrested: 29-year-old Dylan Armer, 31-year-old Thomas Poulson and 33-year-old Chrostopher Bowes. The device used to steal the cars was found, right in one of the stolen cars, and was seized.

How the Game Boy works to steal cars

Clearly the device used to steal the cars has very little, inside, of the original Game Boy. Its shape, however, allowed the thieves to carry it around for months without arousing any suspicion, helping them to pull off the thefts, which were really lightning fast.

Once the fake Game Boy was brought close to the car door to be stolen, in fact, the electronics inside the device forced, via wireless, the "keyless" system of the car. That is, the chip that opens the car and unlocks the engine when the owner approaches the vehicle with the key in his pocket. Thanks to this system, there is no need to take out the keys and press the classic button to open the car: the car chip is always "listening" and detects in a few seconds the presence of the key in the vicinity of the door.

The fake Game Boy, however, contained inside the electronics to force this system and open the car without any tampering: the thieves, in fact, have never had to tamper with the lock and have always escaped on board of the stolen vehicle, which has always turned on without any problem.

The security of keyless cars

This is not the first time that criminals have been arrested because they have been caught stealing cars exploiting the vulnerabilities of the keyless system. In the past it happened many times, with cars of almost all car manufacturers.

Each device, in fact, is programmed to be able to force only one car model (in this case the three criminals stole only Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV) and has a very high cost. But it's clear that if it's used to steal very expensive cars, and ones that resell well, it becomes a great investment for thieves.

The video released by West Yorkshire Police shows the enormous ease with which the gang was able to steal cars, literally in seconds. All this tells us that cybersecurity has become an important issue even when it comes to cars.