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Is it harder to steal a Tesla?

mikeg561

Member
May 18, 2015
114
0
huntington beach, ca
Talking with a friend today about my beautiful Tesla and she was asking a lot of good questions about the car. Then she asked "Because it is all electric, is it harder to steal?" Things like how to "hot wire" the car, unlock the door without the keyfob etc.

I had no idea how to answer the question. Anyone here have some insight? If it is indeed harder to steal, shouldn't that be reflected in our insurance rates?
 

jaguar36

Active Member
Apr 10, 2014
2,097
1,894
NJ
I think it certainly is. Particularly with the fact that you can easily just check where your car is. In addition Tesla is both capable of and seems very good at pushing software updates to fix vulnerabilities.

However, I think most cars are quite hard to steal by *hot wiring*. However its very, very easy to steal a car if you reasonabley intelligent and determined.

For instance you could walk up to their house, break a window, grab the spare key and get the car.... or even easier grab a tow truck, a good repo guy can get a car in like 5 seconds.

For insurance I think the very low value of salavage Teslas and the ridiculously high cost of body work on a Tesla would far outweigh the security benefits.
 

cpa

Active Member
May 17, 2014
3,247
4,411
Central Valley
There are many more qualified folks on here who can comment on the ease of stealing a Tesla. It really cannot be hotwired per se. Whether a savvy computer person with state-of-the-art equipment could read the wireless communication between the fob and the car and then drive off is something for the experts.

However, to think that insurance companies will give a reduced premium because a certain model car is nigh on impossible to steal is wishful thinking. It will take a much larger sample size of cars like Tesla that are virtually theft-proof before we see any premium credits. And, one insurance company will have to lead the way before others follow because they are losing business.
 

glhs272

Unnamed plug faced villian
Aug 21, 2013
912
587
Burlington, WI
A Tesla would be very hard to steal in the conventional "hot wire" way, but could be potentially easier to steal in different ways. Aside from breaking into someone's house and stealing the keys, it might be easier to steal the "digital keys". All you need is a smart phone like an iPhone and to social engineer an attack on someone's user account. Getting user account logins and passwords is old school hacking and there are many ways it can be done. Basically it is an IT security risk. Get an owner to inadvertently disclose the username and password to the Tesla account, then they can use the Tesla iPhone app to find the car, unlock and remotely start the car then turn off remote access then drive away.
 

robert774

Member
Mar 21, 2015
120
106
Houston, Texas
I think the bigger problem is that the car can be disabled by Tesla if stolen, unless I am mistaken. Sort of like Apple has with the iPhones now - a kill switch. That pretty much leaves parts as an enticement, and as was said earlier, only Tesla service centers with some very rare exceptions repair Teslas, hence the value of parts is low as there is no good opportunity to create a black market.
 

Chasedrgc1223

Nearly Insane
Apr 8, 2015
322
87
NJ
Plus there's really no incentive to stealing a Tesla other than the joyride/show off factor, which most car thieves are not in it for. What I mean is the lack of sellable parts which most cars are stolen for.
 

stevem

Member
Apr 1, 2015
193
118
NJ USA
I would say it's probably very easy to steal. With the new digital relay devices out there on ebay and the like that are $20 or so. The thief walks up to the car with one of these in their person, it reads the message the car is sending out and broadcasts it very strongly, it then has a better antenna and (from what I'm told 100 yards away) hears the keys response. Which is not strong enough for the car to hear but gets re-transmitted from this device to the car. There are articles all over about this and some security researchers looked into the tech as well.

Thieves using a $17 device to break into cars with keyless systems

But that being said, if they get into it and trick it into starting without the fob, and drive it away, the fact that you can track the car's location in real time might make it less desirable to steal.
 

kushari

Model X 100D
May 2, 2015
122
12
Toronto, Canada
I would say it's probably very easy to steal. With the new digital relay devices out there on ebay and the like that are $20 or so. The thief walks up to the car with one of these in their person, it reads the message the car is sending out and broadcasts it very strongly, it then has a better antenna and (from what I'm told 100 yards away) hears the keys response. Which is not strong enough for the car to hear but gets re-transmitted from this device to the car. There are articles all over about this and some security researchers looked into the tech as well.

Thieves using a $17 device to break into cars with keyless systems

But that being said, if they get into it and trick it into starting without the fob, and drive it away, the fact that you can track the car's location in real time might make it less desirable to steal.
I have to disagree. I don't think the wireless system used is the same as other cars. Also you could only steal this car at gun point afterwhich they will shutdown the car right after it's stolen. Also since they don' do dealerships where are you going to take the car? It will eventually go to a Tesla store, and then the person is busted. It's the stupidest car to steal.
 

mikeash

Active Member
Oct 26, 2014
1,105
708
Fairfax, VA, USA
Pretty much any newer car is really hard to steal. If you look at the statistics for car theft, the most stolen car models are popular, reliable models from the late 90s, because they're still relatively easy to steal, and provide a decent ROI. Late 90s Honda Accords are stolen at a rate of about 50,000/year in the US. The most stolen new car is stolen at a rate of a few hundred per year. New cars have fancy things like immobilizers that authenticate the key with the engine control computer, so a simple hotwiring is a thing of the past.

If a new car is stolen, it's probably because the key got stolen, often as part of a home burglary, or because the driver left it running. You can potentially do fancy hacks like breaking in through the cellular connection or using a relay to "borrow" the driver's key fob without their knowledge, but very few thieves will bother.

How does the Tesla compare to other modern cars? I don't know! It's probably similar, but I don't know that the relative differences matter much one way or another.
 

ScepticMatt

Member
Nov 5, 2014
453
10
Austria
Much harder to steal than a Volkswagen or any other brand with a RFID Megamos Crypto transponders at least.
The vulnerability is already abused by car thiefs around the world, and there is no software fix.

Unlike some of the other recently revealed security flaws in automobiles, the Megamos cryptography bug isn't something that automakers can easily fix with a software patch or over-the-air update. Since it's a flaw in the RFID chips in the cars' physical keys as well as in the transponder, it would require physically re-keying all affected vehicles and replacing the cryptographic transponders integrated into the vehicle's engine starting system. While the components themselves are relatively inexpensive, the labor costs to dealers (particularly for the luxury models affected) would be more than trivial.

vehicles-vulnerable-to-megamos-crypto-wireless-lockpicking-100608176-large.idge.gif

vehicles-vulnerable-to-megamos-crypto-wireless-lockpicking2-100608177-large.idge.gif

(bold are models tested by the researchers)

Researchers reveal electronic car lock hack after 2-year injunction by Volkswagen | Ars Technica
Hack to steal cars with keyless ignition: Volkswagen spent 2 years hiding flaw | Computerworld
 

Chris TX

Active Member
Sep 30, 2013
1,531
188
Dallas, TX
There are multiple handshake sessions that happen at multiple frequencies between the fob and the car. The act of walking up to your car, opening the door, and starting it utilizes an impressive array of infrastructure components. The only way someone is going to steal your car is by brute force towing, stealing the fob, or stealing an unlocked phone AND knowing your PIN#. Even sniffing the wifi over an open network would reveal an encrypted VPN tunnel that would need to be cracked. Even then, the hacker would need to be listening at the precise moment you use your phone to start your car.
 

stevem

Member
Apr 1, 2015
193
118
NJ USA
I have to disagree. I don't think the wireless system used is the same as other cars. Also you could only steal this car at gun point afterwhich they will shutdown the car right after it's stolen. Also since they don' do dealerships where are you going to take the car? It will eventually go to a Tesla store, and then the person is busted. It's the stupidest car to steal.

That's the "beauty" of these new theft systems, it doesn't matter the wireless system used. The device is a repeater and power booster of the signal with really high gain. The car is transmitting a signal at low power and looking for a response from the key. The key doesn't see that signal. These things just listen and rebroadcast the same signal the car sends out just much stronger. If the key is in range of that, the key responds (and we know our keys RF is pretty strong as they are). The theft box has much higher gain than the car, it hears the key's response and replays that back at the car as if they key was there. The only way it doesn't work is if the key is really far away.

That's the theory anyway. I'm not about to buy one just to test it. But unless the frequency is higher than this repeater box can handle it should be able to relay any car's signal. Maybe Tesla has engineered around this attack. But it's pretty new. Hope they have. But the attack is simple and brilliant all at the same time.

As soon as the thief drives away it will say "key not in car", not sure what happens then. It will let you drive but then won't start again. And you are right, it's dumb car to steal because it's so trackable.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
For instance you could walk up to their house, break a window, grab the spare key and get the car

I had a cop friend once tell me this is way and by far the most common method. Most people just toss their keys onto a table near the door or place them on some sort of key rack.

.... or even easier grab a tow truck, a good repo guy can get a car in like 5 seconds.

A former work associate had his car stolen from a mall parking lot this way. One guy stands there pretending to be the owner looking concerned while a tow-truck hooks the car up. No one walking past would even give it a second thought.
 

jerry33

(S85-3/2/13 traded in) X LR: F2611##-3/27/20
Supporting Member
Mar 8, 2012
20,029
24,878
Texas
There are two reasons to steal a car: Joyriding and monetary gain. Joyriding is typically spur-of-the-moment, so it's unlikely the kids are going to preplan the theft (I believe most of the time alcohol is involved as well). Monetary gain only works when there is a market for used parts. There has to be a lot of cars out there for there to be a black market. And if there was a viable market, the thieves would just flatbed the car (or break in the house and steal the spare key), making the security of the fob system moot.
 

thecloud

As rhythm raced inside, the ship came alive
Nov 24, 2014
1,775
1,646
Sunnyvale, CA
There are two reasons to steal a car: Joyriding and monetary gain. Joyriding is typically spur-of-the-moment, so it's unlikely the kids are going to preplan the theft (I believe most of the time alcohol is involved as well). Monetary gain only works when there is a market for used parts. There has to be a lot of cars out there for there to be a black market. And if there was a viable market, the thieves would just flatbed the car (or break in the house and steal the spare key), making the security of the fob system moot.
There's another reason: to use it as a getaway vehicle. You could argue that the motive for at least one well-publicized incident still falls under the monetary gain category, though it has nothing to do with used car parts.
 

DGM73

Member
Aug 9, 2014
39
1
Barcelona, Spain
In my country, the most usual reason for stealing a car is to forcefully land the stolen car in the storefront of a luxury shop and then proceed to burglarize it, not giving a second thought about the now abandoned stolen car laying there. This is usually done with big robust cars (audis preferred). I would think that a Tesla could qualify, although here they attract too much atention...
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
The Tesla Model S is the least stolen car in the US.

For now. Cars are stolen for parts, and there is just no used parts market for the Model S at this time. That's why the most popular cars are ones for which there is a vibrant parts market.
 

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