Stealing Cars Through Text Message

2011 Subaru Outback

I miss the good ol’ days. Like back in 1998, when the economy was booming, we had a care-free president, the Dow Jones was about to cross the 10,000 mark for the first time and crooks broke into cars with crowbars and screwdrivers.

Things were good.

It was in 1998 that I had a Toyota Pickup stolen from a Seattle park ‘n’ ride. The thieves broke into the truck like any good thief would: by jamming a screwdriver into the keyhole and breaking the door open. It’s a quick, efficient way to bust into a car and lets any moron with the desire to break the law get in on the Grand Theft Auto action. (Which, for the record, is a terrible, no good, very bad way to make a living.)

Just 13 years later things are completely different. The economy is sagging, we have a quickly graying president, the Dow Jones is about to hit 10,000 (from the other side this time) and people can break into cars without the old-fashioned tools of the trade. Instead they can use a text message.

Man, I want 1998 back.

The closest my old pickup ever came to having a computer on board was when I moved a Macintosh II from my parents’ house to my college apartment. These days, cars are basically computers with four tires and a steering wheel. They are drivable mobile phones. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that hackers have managed to break into a Subaru Outback using nothing but a smartphone, an app and a text message.

According to engadget, two professional hackers were able to unlock the doors and start the engine of the Subie using an Android phone.

By setting up their own GSM network, they were able to snatch up password authentication messages being sent from server to car, allowing them the option to ride off in a brand new crossover.

So now stealing cars is even easier than in 1998. Plus, instead of taking the risk of being seen in a parking lot with a crowbar, thieves can blend in among the half-million texters at the mall and simply send a text to any car they choose to take. Pretty soon seasoned thieves will be seeking the advice of tech-savvy 14-year-olds.


While I believe, for the most part, that technology makes our lives better (I love you, iMac), it’s also become clear our reliance on it has simply made us too vulnerable.

Breaking into a car shouldn’t happen at all, but certainly should never be as easy as sending a text. Right?


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Used Toyota Pickup
Used Subaru Outback


  1. The days of stealing cars by breaking in is long gone my 13 yr old car requires the chipped key to be able to run at all and the keys come from the factory not car dealers.

  2. I agree, Joe. Tech in cars should be limited… there’s no reason they should be able to communicate over a network. While remote starting is a cool trick, the risk of it being exploited is too great. Me may be reaching the point where older cars are better than new ones!

  3. all the more reason to drive a somewhat older car. Like one with an advanced alarm that can detect, say, the tires being removed (like on my parents’ 2007 Honda Pilot), but no ability to communicate over a cell phone network like that Subaru up there, or various Chevy models that I keep seeing commercials for in which the car is being remotely started by a smartphone from someone halfway around the world.

    Or, y’know, just another reason to skip that option when you buy the car. Saves you money and can increase security.

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