Tesla’s cars may be high-tech, but that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof when it comes to security. This fact is on display in a new video that shows, without the proper protections in place, that it’s not that hard to steal one of the company’s cars.
The video shows two thieves skulking around a Model S at night while it’s parked in a driveway in the UK. Using a tablet and a phone in tandem, they eventually intercept the frequency used by the Tesla owner’s key fob, even though it was “at the back of the house,” according to the owner. The thieves then relay that signal to the car, tricking it into thinking that the owner was using the key fob to get in and drive.
Thefts like these are a risk with just about any car that allows for keyless entry. (Volkswagen Group also struggled with this problem for a few years.) Tesla even warned owners in the UK about thefts like this one after a small rash of them happened earlier this year. There are a few specific protections the company makes available that could have stopped these thieves, though.
@elonmusk My @tesla was stolen this morning, with just a tablet and a phone extending my fob range from the back of the house. I get that I should enabled PIN access. I wish it was harder for them to disable remote access though. I can’t track it or disable it. 🙁
— Antony Kennedy (@booshtukka) 21 октомври 2018 г.
Tesla recently rolled out a two-factor feature called “PIN to drive,” which requires a driver to enter a PIN code on the car’s touchscreen before it will go anywhere. The company also reminded owners that it’s possible (and safer, even if it’s less convenient) to turn off the “passive entry” feature, where the car automatically unlocks and opens its doors when it recognizes the owner approaching with the key fob. One way to prevent thefts like these is to keep your key fob in a “faraday pouch” when it’s not in use so that the signal can’t be intercepted in the first place.
In this case, the owner admits that he didn’t have any of these protections in place, which is why his car was ultimately able to be stolen. Worse, the thieves seem to have found a way to disable remote access to the car, meaning neither he nor Tesla is able to track its location. One thing nearly did save his Model S, though: the car was charging at the time of the theft, and neither thief seemed to understand how to release the plug from the charge socket. After a few fussy moments, they finally figured it out, though not before both of their faces got caught by the camera on his connected doorbell. That the theft was captured on video — from start to finish, no less — is a helpful reminder that new technologies sometimes have a downside, and true security can’t be taken for granted.