Alert: Hackers can unlock, steal your vehicles – NCC

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Warns of vulnerability to new Android trojan apps

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) desires to inform telecom customers and members of the general public about an ongoing cyber-vulnerability that allows a nearby hacker to unlock vehicles, start their engines wirelessly and steal the vehicles.

The fact that automobile remotes are classified as short-range devices that employ radio frequency (RF) to lock and unlock cars prompted the Commission to issue an alert to the general public about this emerging threat. Hackers take advantage to open and start a hacked vehicle.

The vulnerability is a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack or, more specifically, a replay attack in which an attacker intercepts the RF signals usually sent from a remote key fob to the car, manipulates these signals, and re-sends them later to unlock the car at will, according to the latest advisory released by the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), the Cybersecurity Centre for the telecom sector established by the NCC.

It is also feasible to alter the recorded commands and re-transmit them to obtain an entirely different consequence using this latest sort of cyber-attack. “Several researchers identified a vulnerability that is supposed to be utilized by a nearby attacker to unlock some Honda and Acura car models and remotely start their engines.” “A threat actor captures the radio frequency (RF) signals transferred from your key fob to the car and resends these signals to take control of your car’s remote keyless entry system,” the alert stated firmly.

However, the NCC-CSIRT has provided several preventative measures or solutions in the advice that car owners can use to avoid becoming a victim of the attack.

According to the cyber-alert unit of the Commission, “When affected, the only mitigation is to reset your key fob at the dealership. 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.”
Importantly, 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 due to the fact that criminals would need to be at close proximity to carry out their nefarious acts.

The PKE is an automotive security system that operates automatically when the user is in proximity to the vehicle, unlocking the door on approach or when the door handle is pulled, and also locking it when the user walks away or touches the car on exit. 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, wishes to inform the general public about 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 upload the app back to the Play Store with a new name.

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 permissions that once granted, enable the apps to have access to critical functions such as text messages and notifications.

As a consequence, a compromised device will 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.

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 wishes to advise telecom consumers to ensure that apps installed from the Google Play Store are heavily scrutinized by reading reviews, assessing the developers, perusing the terms of use and only granting the necessary permissions.

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.

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Gbenga Elebiyo

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