A trio of car thieves have been jailed by Leeds Crown Court for stealing cars with a device designed to look like a Nintendo Game Boy. All pled guilty to the charge of conspiracy to steal. The gang had managed to steal five Mitsubishi Outlanders using the handheld device, which is about £180,000 worth of cars.
West Yorkshire Police estimate the device itself is worth about £20,000, and told the BBC (opens in new tab) that it could unlock and start a car "in a matter of seconds." The device appears to work by essentially 'mirroring' the short-range frequencies of a particular key fob: fooling the car into thinking that the device is the key itself. Marcus Hutchins is a bit of a poacher-turned-gamekeeper in the cybercrime business, and he explains in the below video what the thieves' device is doing. Spoiler: it's cunning.
@malwaretech (opens in new tab)
Reply to @ancspace Rather than cloning the key they typically use an amplification + relay attack to extend the key’s range #hacking #tech #security♬ original sound - Marcus Hutchins (opens in new tab)
The perpetrators, Dylan Armer, Christopher Bowes and Thomas Poulson, were arrested after stealing a Mitsubishi Outlander from a driveway on 20 July this year. There's CCTV footage of the theft (which can be viewed on the BBC website (opens in new tab)) showing the thieves work their dark magic on the car: officers arrested them shortly afterwards.
If you're wondering 'why a Game Boy?' the answer is probably just that it's an inconspicuous and easily recognisable piece of older tech: the kind of thing you wouldn't think twice about seeing someone fooling around with, or think was especially noteworthy. The device was found in a secret compartment of the thieves' car following their arrest. The would-be criminal masterminds had also helpfully recorded themselves nicking the cars, which the police said showed: "how quickly and easily the gadget gave them full access to the vehicles, accompanied by a commentary in mocking tones".
Armer was jailed for 30 months by the court. Bowes and Poulson were each given 22 months in prison, suspended for two years.