Cybersecurity: NCC alerts consumers to hackers’ unlocking, stealing vehicles

*The Nigerian Communications Commission warns consumers against vulnerability to new Android Trojan apps, offers measures to prevent attack

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

As part of the telecoms sector regulatory Commission’s consumer sensitisation and education initiatives, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted telecoms consumers and members of the Nigerian public to an ongoing cyber-vulnerability.

ConsumerConnect reports the NCC said the fresh cyber-vulnerability allows a nearby hacker to unlock vehicles, start their engines wirelessly, and steal the cars.

Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, stated the fact that car remotes are categorised short-range devices that make use of Radio Frequency (RF) to lock and unlock cars informed the need for the Commission to alert the general public to this emergent danger.

The Commission said via the RF, hackers take advantage to unlock and start a compromised car.

Dr. Adinde also noted: “According to the latest advisory released by the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), the Cybersecurity Centre for the telecoms sector established by the NCC, the vulnerability is a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack or, more specifically, a replay attack in which an attacker intercepts the RF signals normally sent from a remote key fob to the car, manipulates these signals, and re-sends them later to unlock the car at will.

“With this latest type of cyber-attack, it is also possible to manipulate the captured commands and re-transmit them to achieve a different outcome altogether.”

The NCC Director of Public Affairs further stated the advisory said: “Multiple researchers disclosed a vulnerability, which is said to be used by a nearby attacker to unlock some Honda and Acura car models and start their engines wirelessly.

“The attack consists of a threat actor capturing the Radio Frequency (RF) signals sent from your key fob to the car and resending these signals to take control of your car’s remote keyless entry system.”

Precautionary measures to prevent attack

The NCC-CSIRT, in the advisory, however, has offered some precautionary measures or solutions that can be adopted by car owners in order to prevent falling victim to the new form of cyberattack.

The cyber-alert unit of the Commission also noted “when affected, the only mitigation is to reset your key fob at the dealership.

“Besides, the affected car manufacturer may provide a security mechanism that generate fresh codes for each authentication request, this makes it difficult for an attacker to ‘replay’ the codes thereafter.”

According to the Commission, “vulnerable car users should store their key fobs in signal-blocking ’Faraday pouches’ when not in use.”

More importantly, car owners in the stated categories are equally advised to choose Passive Keyless Entry (PKE) as opposed to Remote Keyless Entry (RKE), which would make it harder for an attacker to read the signal due to the fact that criminals would need to be at close proximity to carry out their nefarious acts.

The NCC described the PKE is an automotive security system that operates automatically when the user is in proximity to the vehicle, unlocking the door on approach or when the door handle is pulled, and also locking it when the user walks away or touches the car on exit.

It stated: “The RKE system, on the other hand, represents the standard solution for conveniently locking and unlocking a vehicle’s doors and luggage compartment by remote control.”

Resurgence of Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps on Google Play Store

In a related advisory, the Commission, based on another detection by CSIRT, as well informed the general public about the resurgence of Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps on Google Play Store.

“This arose due to the activities of criminals who intentionally download legitimate apps from the Play Store, modify them by embedding the Trojan malware and then uploading the app back to the Play Store with a new name.

“The malicious payload is only activated once the apps goes live on the Play Store, which enables the apps to scale through Google’s strict evaluation process,” it said.

The NCC also explained once installed, these apps request permissions that once it is granted can enable the apps to have access to critical functions such as text messages and notifications.

According to the telecoms regulator, a compromised device, consequently, will subscribe unwitting users to premium services, billing them for services that do not exist.

The NCC said: “A device like this can also be used to commit Short Messaging Service (SMS) fraud while the owner is unaware.

“It can click on online ads automatically and even use SMS One Time password (OTPs) to secretly approve payments. Without checking bank statements, the user will be unaware that he or she has subscribed to an online service.

“Other actions, such as stealing text messages, contacts, and other device data, are also possible.”

Again, in order to avoid falling victim to the manipulation of hackers deploying Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps, the Commission has advised Android users to avoid downloading unnecessary apps or installing apps from unofficial sources.

“The NCC also wishes to advise telecoms consumers to ensure that apps installed from the Google Play Store are heavily scrutinised by reading reviews, assessing the developers, perusing the terms of use and only granting the necessary permissions.”

The NCC, therefore, recommended that unauthorised transactions be checked against any installed app.

“Indeed, any apps not in use should be deleted while users are also advised to ensure that a device is always patched and updated to the latest software,” stated the Commission.

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