Viral TikTok videos taught netizens how to steal Hyundai and Kia models without an immobilizer. The method comes down to breaking into a car, typically by smashing a side window, breaking open the steering wheel column, and plugging a cable into a port that lets thieves drive away freely. The hack has become increasingly widespread, leading to thousands of thefts in the United States.
Hyundai says the software update resolves the vulnerability by adding an ignition kill. Drivers must lock the doors with the key fob, enabling the factory alarm and activating the ignition kill. If someone breaks into the vehicle, they won't be able to start the car without the key fob. As a result, drivers must always use the key fob to unlock their vehicles and disable the ignition kill.
The South Korean carmaker says the software update works, and it has already been installed on nearly one million eligible Hyundai models.
The company will hold five software update events as per the following schedule:
- New York City, NY: Saturday, October 28 – Sunday, October 29
- Chicago, IL: Friday, November 3 – Sunday, November 5
- Minneapolis, MN: Friday, November 10 – Saturday, November 11
- Saint Paul, MN: Sunday, November 12 – Monday, November 13
- Rochester, NY: Friday, November 17 – Saturday, November 18
Installing the update only takes 30 minutes, and Hyundai says that customers can also take their cars to dealerships to receive the patch. The update is free.
Despite being part of the affected model years, Hyundai explains that some vehicles can't receive the new software update, so the only way is to protect the car with a steering wheel lock. The carmaker will reimburse car owners for their purchase of such devices.
The patch works, but…
That's good news, but a patch still doesn't resolve the problem.
As many Hyundai and Kia owners learned the hard way, the thieves don't know what car has already received the software update. The only way to find out is to break into the vehicle and try to start it. If the viral method on TikTok doesn't work, it's a patched car. Otherwise, they could turn on the engine and drive away.
As a result, Hyundai and Kia models still have a target on their backs, as thieves are still tempted to break into them to see if they received the patch. Eventually, they produce damage that costs thousands of dollars to resolve, such as broken windows and damaged columns.
Customers are also provided with stickers to inform that the vehicle is secure, but even so, many Hyundai and Kia owners prefer to purchase third-party hardware that would eventually add another protection layer to their cars and make thieves walk away.
Larger stickers, steering wheel locks, and even AirTags planted into the vehicle helped deal with a problem that Hyundai needed years to resolve.
Hyundai emphasizes in its announcement that it worked with law enforcement agencies to provide customers who purchased a vulnerable vehicle with free steering wheel locks, claiming it also collaborated with AAA to offer insurance options to those affected by the TikTok madness.
All these anti-theft measures still don't keep thieves away from Hyundai and Kia models. Social media platforms are filled with complaints from owners whose vehicles were stolen overnight, often recovered by the police one or two days later in horrible condition. Some of these cars are totaled, while others exhibit damage worth thousands of dollars.
Hyundai says it'll contact customers on all possible means, including mail, email, and phone, with anti-theft software installation details to be published on its website and in paid media. The purpose is to install the patch on all vulnerable vehicles and, if this isn't possible, to provide customers with reimbursements for their steering wheel locks.
The company also created a website where you can provide your vehicle identification number (VIN) to tell if your vehicle can receive the software patch.