Thieves use laptop, dealer software, blank keys to 'hotwire' more than 100 cars

The targets of the Houston-area heist were Jeep Wranglers, Grand Cherokees, and some Ram trucks. 

PRNewsFoto/Chrysler Group LLC/File
A 2014 Jeep Wrangler

Earlier in the month, we told you about the theft of more than 100 Jeep and Ram vehicles. Initial reports stated that it was the work of hackers, but in reality this was all pulled off through the use of official internally used dealer and automaker software and codes.

The targets of the Houston-area heist were Jeep Wranglers, Grand Cherokees, and some Ram trucks. These SUVs and pickups were then sent over the border into Mexico in the middle of the night.

According to Automotive News, the police began investigating the thefts back in April. A home surveillance video showed a thief entering a parked Jeep Wrangler. Upon entering the vehicle, the thief uses a laptop for a short amount of time and then is able to start the Jeep up and drive away.

It seems that this theft ring acquired the internal DealerCONNECT software. Through this system one can get the codes typically used to program anti-theft devices and key fobs for a given vehicle. Plugging a laptop into the vehicle's OBD-II port and then hitting a few keys on the computer will basically grant you all the access you'll need.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has updated the terms of use for its DealerCONNECT system so that opens the door to allow them to pursue and prosecute anyone caught misusing the system. There's been no word from FCA yet on whether these thefts were carried out with some internal dealership-level help.

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