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UK thieves jailed after stealing £180K of cars with a 'Game Boy'

A device for stealing cars disguised as a Game Boy.
(Image credit: West Yorkshire Police)

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 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

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

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) 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.