Hyundai and Kia Offer Free Software Update to Patch a Vulnerability Allowing Car Thefts

South Korean automakers Hyundai and KIA are deploying an emergency software update to several of their car models. The update is meant to patch a vulnerability that made it possible for car thefts to hotwire vehicles using a USB cable.

The free update will be offered to 3.8 million Hyundai and 4.5 million KIA vehicles in the United States, as per the United States Department of Transportation (NHTSA).

Trending on TikTok

Hyundai made the announcement on its website, reading:

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,

Hyundai (Source)

The car hack has been popular on TikTok since July 2022. The videos showing how to remove the steering column to reveal a USB-A port that can be used to hotwire the car went viral on the platform, eventually becoming a “challenge” on the Social Media platform.

The “KIA Challenge” had an impact so significant that in Los Angeles, the two car manufacturers had an 85% increase in thefts in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Details on the Software Update

As reported by BleepingComputer, the two car brands have been working with U.S. law enforcement agencies since November 2022 to come up with more than 26,000 steering wheel locks. However, the software update will better solve the problem.

The initial Hyundai upgrade started on February 14th, and it will be available for more than 1 million 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata, and 2020-2021 Venue model years.

The second rollout phase will be completed until June 2023 and will cover the following vehicles:

  • 2018-2022 Accent
  • 2011-2016 Elantra
  • 2021-2022 Elantra
  • 2018-2020 Elantra GT
  • 2011-2014 Genesis Coupe
  • 2018-2022 Kona
  • 2020-2021 Palisade
  • 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport
  • 2013-2022 Santa Fe
  • 2019 Santa Fe XL
  • 2011-2014 Sonata
  • 2011-2022 Tucson
  • 2012-2017, 2019 2021 Veloster

The free upgrade will be available for installation at Hyundai’s official dealers and service network in the U.S. and it will take less than an hour. The eligible car owners will be informed individually by Hyundai.

The software update will modify the “turn-key-to-start” logic to kill the ignition when the doors are locked with the key fob. After the update, the ignition will activate only if the key fob is used to unlock the vehicle. For the models with no engine immobilizers that cannot receive the update, Hyundai will cover the cost of steering wheel locks for their owners.

KIA promised to start the rollout soon as well but has not released any details so far on specific dates or other details.

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