HackRF Receives Negative Press in the UK’s ‘DailyMail’ Newspaper

The HackRF is a $300 USD RX/TX capable software defined radio which has a wide tuning range from almost DC – 6 GHz, and wide bandwidths of up to 20 MHz. It uses an 8-bit ADC so reception quality is not great, but most people buy it for its TX and wide frequency/bandwidth capabilities.

Recently the HackRF received some negative press in the ‘Daily Mail’, a British tabloid newspaper famous for sensationalist articles. In the article the Daily Mail show that the HackRF can be used to break into £100,000 Range Rover car in less than two minutes. The exact method of attack isn’t revealed, but we assume they did some sort of simple replay attack. What they probably did is take the car key far away out of reception range from the car, record a key press using the HackRF, and then replay that key press close to the car with the HackRF’s TX function. Taking the key out of reception range of the car prevents the car from invalidating the rolling code when the key is pressed. 

Of course in real life an attacker would need to be more sophisticated as they most likely wouldn’t have access to the keyfob, and in that case they would most likely perform a jam-record-replay attack as we’ve seen with cheap homemade devices like RollJam. The HackRF cannot do this by itself because it is only half-duplex and so cannot TX and RX at the same time.

We should also mention that the HackRF is not the only device that can be used for replay attacks – potentially any radio that can transmit at the keyfob frequency could be used. Even a very cheap Arduino with ISM band RF module can be used for the same purpose.

15 comments

  1. Mickey

    Someone should tell them that same thing can be done with RTL-SDR stick for $8 as RX and Raspberry Pi as TX (see rpitx project). Now that would be headlines! 🙂

    • Mouse

      No way! Tomorrow there will be an article that people with cars could easily kill pedestrians. And you could buy a used car for 500$ to do so! I am pretty sure that you could even buy that car on Amazon…

    • Truth

      That is far too complex to explain to the average person on the street, and does not have the magic word of the week “hack” in is, so it would not be useful in selling more newspapers. The box and hoodie needs to be black ideally with the words “I am evil” or “Hacker” written on one, the other or both. And maybe throw a balaclava in for good measure, or I know a “v for vendetta mask”.

  2. Mario Filippi

    Surely sales will be boosted by this article. Time to get one before they are on backorder hi hi.

    • AD5NL

      That’s actually what I was thinking Mario. Get ’em while you still can….

      Not to get too political — but the same thing happens with gun sales every time there is a mass shooting (in the USA at least).

  3. European Citizen

    Most important the hacker wears a black hoodie. No way a brissy white collar worker could do this nasty hack!!1!one!eleven!!

  4. EC1AME

    What they have to do is update the systems in the cars for this not to happen… it´s not a problem of the tool used, but of the car itself…. the more sofisticated and the more electronics… the more vulnerable it becomes…
    73 EC1AME

    • snn47

      You should have written:
      and the more stupid vulnerable designs are still used by car manufacteres

      When I was looking for a new car they offered me keyless control. When I told them that I do not want it beacause of the stupid vulnerable design, I was told that I can deactivate it, but I still would have to pay for it!

  5. AD5NL

    There’s a reason they call it the Daily Fail… they make the New York Post look like a credible journalistic enterprise by comparison.

    • Albert

      Also “Daily Heil” bearing in mind their predeliction for the Nazis since the 1930s. Their main aim is to enrage the ignorant and stoke racism while pretending to be patriotic. Ignore them they are clueless when it comes to even the lowest level of technology.

      • Hall

        That’s why the British decided to leave the European Union: Their press is racist, biased, ignorant and anti-European. When you only offer people one oppinion, once they will adapt it.

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