In cooperation with Spain and Latvia, law enforcement officials in France have dismantled a cybercrime ring that used a hacking program to steal automobiles without using a physical key fob.
“The criminals targeted vehicles with keyless entry and start systems, exploiting the technology to get into the car and drive away,” Europol said in a press statement.
31 people were detained as a consequence of the coordinated operation carried out on October 10, 2022, at 22 different sites throughout the three countries. These individuals included software developers, resellers, and auto thieves who used the program to break into vehicles. Along with the arrests, the authorities seized illegal property worth €1,098,500 and an internet domain reportedly used to market the business online.
According to Europol, the thieves are said to have targeted keyless cars from two undisclosed French automakers. The counterfeit program was subsequently advertised as an “automotive diagnostic solution” by the culprits, who used it to replace the genuine software. After being installed, the utility allowed keyless ignition and door opening for vehicles. The government withheld further details about the attacks’ execution.
In a separate news release, Eurojust reported that the organized crime gang “used fraudulent software to steal vehicles by duplicating the vehicles’ ignition keys,” adding “more than €100 million, as well as 12 bank accounts, real estate, and 3 luxury cars were seized in France.” Europol further said that the French Gendarmerie’s Cybercrime Centre (C3N) started the inquiry, which has been working on the case since March 2022.
Participating in the investigation were the following authorities:
France: National Jurisdiction against Organised Crime (JUNALCO), National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale)
Spain: Investigative Court num. 2 in Palma de Mallorca Balearic Islands PPO
Latvia: State Police of Latvia
This investigation was funded by the Internal Security Fund (ISF) SWORD and the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).