By David Ponce
The newer generations of BMW’s have keys that would appear to make theft pretty hard to accomplish. There’s really no way to start the car without them, and since they’re encoded right at the dealership (with blanks sent over from Germany), no one but you has access to them. The encryption is strong, so they can’t be hacked… and yet… Turns out that some enterprising thieves have found a way to steal a new BMW in less than 90 seconds. The ways this is done is by purchasing a key encoder, which is sold on the black market in some parts of Europe for $8,000 or thereabouts. They then smash the driver’s side window and attach this encoder from the outside to the ODB-II port, which is not password protected. It appears that the cars’ alarm system has a blind spot right in front of the ODB-II port, so sticking your arm inside doesn’t seem to trigger anything. From there it’s just a matter of programming a blank (which the miscreants also appear to be able to acquire, although an old fob can also be reprogrammed) and leaving with the car, making use of their newly minted keyfob. This seems to affect every BMW, from the 1-series to the X6.
BMW’s official response? “Yeah, we know about this. And guess what, it’s a problem all premium, luxury cars face. (Not in those actual words.)” So, uh, looks like BMW won’t do much for you. Maybe keep a dog next to your car at night?
Anyway, hit the jump for a video of a car being stolen using this method, and another of a key being programmed with one of the illicit encoders.