This Monday (17), Europol (European Union Agency for Police Cooperation) announced the arrest of 31 people suspected of stealing cars in France, Spain and Latvia. What is striking is that criminals only targeted vehicles with in-person keys and almost every scheme happened remotely, that is, via software.
In-person keys are those that do not have the metallic part made to be inserted into the car ignition. In fact, everything happens by radio frequency waves, which allow you to lock or unlock the vehicle and start or stop the car engine remotely.
Among the 31 suspects arrested are the developers of the software that made the theft possible, the program’s dealers and the vehicle thieves, who broke into and drove out of the cars. According to Europol, all models were from two French manufacturers, which were not identified.
The operation was commanded by the French Guard’s Cyber Crime Center (Junalco) and coordinated by Europol. According to the authorities, 22 sites were investigated in the three European countries.
In addition, more than 2 million euros, 12 bank accounts, 3 luxury cars and real estate were seized in France; the domain of the website hosting the software was also suspended. The group has been closely investigated by Europol since last March.
Software was sold as a diagnostic tool
The package with the malicious program was sold on the internet for around 4,000 euros, but it was presented as an automotive diagnostic tool. In fact, according to Europol, it was used to “replace the vehicles’ original software”.
With duplicate car keys, criminals programmed blank copies and were able to open doors and even start.
As much as it has already been taken down, authorities did not share the address of the website where the packages were sold, but said it intercepted 53,000 connections, a number that may represent attempts to reprogram keys.
Law enforcement agencies also did not detail how the crooks managed to install or connect the malicious app in vehicles in order to make the duplicate keys work.
For the french website 20 minutesthere is the possibility that employees of dealerships or garages — places where vehicles are left for a long period without supervision — could receive sums of money to help with this scheme.