Automakers Hyundai and KIA are rolling out an emergency software update on several of their car models impacted by an easy hack that makes it possible to steal them.
“In response to increasing thefts targeting its vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai is introducing a free anti-theft software upgrade to prevent the vehicles from starting during a method of theft popularized on TikTok and other social media channels,” reads Hyundai’s announcement.
The car hack has been heavily promoted on TikTok as a “challenge” since July 2022, with videos showing how to remove the steering column cover to reveal a USB-A slot that can be used to hotwire the car.
The issue lies in a logic flaw that allows the “turn-key-to-start” system to bypass the immobilizer that verifies the authenticity of the code in the key’s transponder to the car’s ECU. This allows thieves to forcibly activate the ignition cylinder using any USB cable to start the vehicle.
The impact of the so-called “Kia Challenge” was so significant that in Los Angeles, the two brands had a steep 85% increase in thefts in 2022 compared to the previous year, while Chicago reported a nine-fold rise for the same.