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A Surprisingly Simple Way to Foil Car Thieves

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Battery Sleuth also has defenses to guard against hacking or physical attacks on the device itself.

An experimental prototype of the Battery Sleuth code entry device installed in a vehicle.

Credit: Kang Shin

Skyrocketing vehicle theft rates in some U.S. cities have drawn attention to an inconvenient truth: the increasing amount of technology in our vehicles can make them increasingly vulnerable to hacking or theft.

Now, a solution that leverages perhaps the lowest-tech feature of today's vehicles—the auxiliary power outlet, known to those of a certain age as the cigarette lighter—has been developed by a University of Michigan-led research team.

With a new $1.2-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation, the team is set to begin large-scale testing of Battery Sleuth, a vehicle security system that can protect against sophisticated wireless hacking, old-school jimmying and everything in between.

Battery Sleuth bypasses both the wireless communication that key fobs depend on and the standardized onboard communication network that's used in today's vehicles. Instead, it authenticates drivers by measuring voltage fluctuations in a vehicle's electrical system. Drivers interact with it through a keypad device plugged into the auxiliary power outlet.

From Michigan News
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