Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV wi-fi security weakness

Wi-Fi "bug" allows alarm to be deactivated

Electronic security experts have found a weakness in the wi-fi-linked alarm system of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which could be exploited by determined thieves.

Security expert Ken Monroe chanced upon a wi-fi access point on his mobile phone, which was found to belong to a Mitsubishi Outlander parked nearby. The owner of the car, a friend of Monroe, demonstrated the car’s remote access app on his mobile phone, which is listed on the Mitsubishi website and available for Mitsubishi owners to download from mobile application websites.

Worried about a potential vulnerability, Mr Munroe, who works for electronic security consultants Pen Test Partners, bought an Outlander PHEV for further examination and soon found that the way the car’s systems communicate with the owner’s smartphone is different to many other cars.

Similar systems from other manufacturers use an online service that passes data from a mobile phone through a secure server before it’s received by the car. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is different, communicating directly with the mobile phone via its on-board wi-fi system.

Mr Munro was initially concerned that the name of the access point for each of these vehicles was very distinctive and would be easily identified on a website that gathers the identities of wi-fi hotspots. This could mean cars of interest being easily located by thieves.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_full_width","fid":"71751","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"414","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"620"}}]]

Writing on the Pen Test Partners website, David Lodge said: “The wi-fi pre-shared key is written on a piece of paper included in the owner’s manual. The format is too simple and too short”. Within four days, the key was hacked using technology available to hackers.

By analysing the way the car communicated with the smartphone, it was possible to replicate the commands that operate various functions on the car, including the lights and air-conditioning.

Mr Munro and his team were then shocked to find that they could also deactivate the alarm. On their website, Mr Lodge wrote: “This is shocking and should not be possible.”

A determined thief or organisation with access to the right equipment would find it much easier to get into the car if they knew that the alarm was deactivated. Mr Lodge continued: “We involved the BBC, who helped us get their attention. Mitsubishi have since been very responsive to us. They’re taking the issue very seriously at the highest levels. A medium-term fix is being worked on now.”

In a statement reported by the BBC, Mitsubishi said: "This hacking is a first for us, as no other has been reported anywhere else in the world. It should be noted that without the remote-control device, the car cannot be started and driven away."

Until these issues have been investigated, Mitsubishi and Pen Test Partnership recommend that owners of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs disconnect their car from their smartphone using the "cancel VIN Registration" option within the app.

Most Popular

Hot car deal: quirky Nissan Juke hybrid for £172 a month
Nissan Juke dynamic
Deals
26 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: quirky Nissan Juke hybrid for £172 a month

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
1 Mar 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

10 smallest cars on sale 2024
smallest cars on sale
Best cars
28 Feb 2024

10 smallest cars on sale 2024

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
19 Dec 2023

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
12 Apr 2023

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
The best electric cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024