Tesla Theft Now Apparently A Thing In Europe, Software Fix Coming



Tesla Model X

It takes highly knowledgeable thieves to figure out how to steal a Tesla, and they have, but the automaker will soon put an end to the problem.

News of car thieves targeting Tesla vehicles has come to the forefront in Europe. Not only have the criminals stolen the cars, but they’ve gotten away with it. This is unlike past reports of idiot bad guys taking a Tesla and not realizing that it could be tracked so easily.


Europe’s Tesla thieves are stealing the cars without the key fob.

It hasn’t been disclosed how the thieves have been successful, which is probably a good thing. Broadcasting such methods isn’t very smart. According to Electrek, the crooks didn’t make off with the key fobs, and GPS tracking was not engaged. So, somehow they started the vehicles and turned off the tracking system. Although, they could have towed the vehicles, but that’s not very likely.

Reports of one incident point to either a key fob or Tesla App hack, along with Sim card removal or some sort of GPS blocker. Several other incidents have occurred in the Netherlands over a short period of time. According to nrc.nl, a Dutch news site, 11 Model S’ have gone missing as of late, and nine disappeared inside of a single week.

Unfortunately, police in the area have explained that usually the vehicles are broken down for parts within a few hours. According to Electrek, a Model S stolen from the Netherlands was discovered crossing into Germany. It was in the back of a truck, already in pieces.

Tesla President of sales and service, Jon McNeill chimed in about the situation after a man reported that he watched a thief move around his Tesla carrying a laptop. Within minutes he drove the car away. McNeill made it clear that similar methods are being used to steal other cars. He said (via Electrek):

“The method used by the thieves is also used to steal other cars.”

Tesla is now in the process of developing a software update that intends to take care of the issue. It’s assumed it will be pushed out fleet-wide once it’s ready.

Source: nrc.nl via Electrek

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32 Comments on "Tesla Theft Now Apparently A Thing In Europe, Software Fix Coming"

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“It hasn’t been disclosed how the thieves have been successful, which is probably a good thing. Broadcasting such methods isn’t very smart.”

It isn’t a secret how they do it – at least not if you read European newspapers. And there is a way to protect yourself against it by putting your fob in a Faraday cage (wrap it in tin foil or put it in the microwave).

I’d advice all Tesla owners to do that while at home.

If that’s true, the trick must be the “man in the middle” attack as described in this wired article.


Not sure how they’ll prevent such attack just with software unless they measure the timing down to few microseconds. Unlike network traffic, thieves don’t care about the information content they intercept, rather just that the information is delivered.

To answer my own question, this attack could be eliminated in software if the key fob button must be pressed for any action to take place. That means unlocking the doors on approach won’t work, because physical action is needed.

But again, IF the problem is due to man-in-middle attack.

The fix is easy, just inconvenient. You just make it so the key in your pocket doesn’t transmit until you press a button. Tesla could also make their cars only start after checking your location (via your phone) over the internet. If you’re not nearby, no start. And they could implement two-factor authentication if they wanted. All these things would of course be optional.

It’s strange to think there really are groups of thieves using this method to steal cars. It requires one of you be near the owner. And that means if there are security cameras nearby you’re in the recordings. After only a few times doing this they can find the common person in the pictures taken during the thefts.

In the method described in wired article, they do not need to be near the owner. In fact, even some poor Faraday cages may not work for strong booster.

Also, it’s not clear if keyfob is doing the transmit without button press since that’ll use up lots of keyfob battery. It could be that proximity to the car (ie, receiving) triggers bidirectional comm. which unlocks the door.

That’s not correct. The article says the two thieves can be 300 feet apart, but one of them has to be right next to the fob for the car. And that means near the owner.

‘The ADAC researchers pulled off the attack by building a pair of radio devices; one is meant to be held a few feet from the victim’s car, while the other is placed near the victim’s key fob’

When you do this you create a ‘tunnel’ which makes the fob think it is near the car (and vice-versa). To do this you need a transceiver near the fob and near the car. So you need a thief with a transceiver near the fob (owner).

Why would Tesla owners bother putting their fobs in the microwave? In Europe people usually get full insurance for such expensive cars, so we’ll just buy a new one.

Will one minute on “Hi” be sufficient?

Just to make it clear for those in Trumpland: Actually microwaving the key fob is not recommended. Sure, that kills the loophole permanently, but also might make it difficult to use that car yourself. Just use the fact that the micro is shielded to prevent any thiefs to pick up the fobs signal during the night.

Or if you are forgetful, wrapping it in tin foil actually works really well. Try walking up to your car and see what happens!

Any other metal container might also work, as long as there are no holes in it. Just try it out to be sure.

Wireless technologies open up a whole new set of issues that can be hard to guard against. Convenience comes at a price, maybe it would be better to not have a wireless key

Oh, there’s a thought.

Pointless use of technology is IMHO one of the banes of modern living. Making things more complicated, more expensive, and more prone to failure, for no good reason.

They’re still selling electric toothbrushes. 🙁

Good point with the electric toothbrush.
Never got it, why one would buy an electric toothbrush holder, pay a lot for electricity in constant charging, and a fortune on replacement brushes every month, whereas for less than the cost of one two-pack of the replacement brushes, one can buy 1-2 years worth of normal toothbrushes at the supermarket.

Of topic but electric toothbrushes give a better result in most cases.
Poor result ends up being expensive.

How to open and start your car is another question.

But the thieves can easily buy stuff to jamm the 3G/4G and GPS signal from the car. But this is a operation that requires a lot of logistics and a nearby garage with forklift and so on.

Solution: Bring the car to a slow stop when the key is not inside the car.

All my cars don’t start if key is not in the car…are you sure Tesla is not the same?

You have to pay extra for that technology. No wonder the insurance rates are so high. My 1996 Honda Odyssey is looking better all the time and dont care if it is stolen. I drive it to the Walmart parking lot and dont worry about it….lol

I don’t think it’s the fob. I think it’s the lack of two factor auth on the mobile app. Once you obtain or guess the username and password combo from an android phone malware or a gullible owner having entered it into a third party app, you can locate, open and drive away the car.

Nevertheless, other makers cars, without apps but with keyless entry, have gotten stolen the same way. I haven’t seen any other explanation than the use of a signal booster, picking up the fobs signal and using it to gain entry to the car.

Add facial recognition, or a pin/swipe-pattern to allow your car to start.

Allow the owner to temporarily disable for valet mode.

Yeah, virtual Silicon Valley approach to hardware problem, add facial recognition :/

And here is real life approach: a screwdriver and few seconds to remove covers and connect some antennas and wires inside in standard location removes any “recognition”. Custom alarm installation may make things more complicated to random junkies, but not to professional thieve gangs.

Can you rephrase? Not following your post.

Software protections are next to useless in this case when you have hardware access. Especially when it is standard hardware manufactured in many thousands and can be reverse engineered in advance.

Unless the software is setup to detect tampering of the hardware.

Another Euro point of view

Why does things needs to be made so complicated for a thing that is basically a transportation mean. I guess that the more people surround themselves with over complicated electronic items they need to master the more conveniently they can distract themselves about the disturbing question of actually getting a life.

That said, getting a life starts by spending limited time on the internet and about no time at all in the “comments section”. So see you in a quarter :-).

Expensive cars are stolen in Western Europe for decades and no silly fobs or GPS trackers are going to stop it. Alarms can be quickly found and silenced, a car moved to van covered in aluminum foil inside to block any communication if nothing better is figured out. Within hours it is disassembled or transferred as whole to Russia and other lawless countries with help of corrupt border officials or actual car owners who want to get rid of expensive payments and give all the fobs to thieves for minimal payment, with promise “do not notice” for a day that their car has disappeared.


Determined professional car thieves are going to target expensive cars. Auto makers can make stealing high-end cars more difficult, but they can’t stop the really dedicated and talented thieves.

Build a higher wall, and the professional thieves will just build a higher ladder.

I saw a documentary on this called “Gone in 60 seconds”.

The troll is again trolling and this time with a touch of Tesla bashing, Russophobia and blaming owners as criminals.

Yeah, I suspect any stolen Tesla will be torn apart and sold as spare parts.

Tesla could help combat this by making it easier to get parts for their cars at reasonable prices. But that’s probably a profit center.

That’s a good point. Who is buying these stolen parts? Are there hundreds of Tesla owners doing their own repairs?

The thieves mainly need the batteries. Each batterycell cost $ 5.00 a piece in the real world. More then 7000 pcs and a market screaming for them DIY guys pay $2.00 a pice.

If Tesla get stolen is it then called Edison?