The City of Seattle Takes Hyundai and Kia to Court Over TikTok Hack Vulnerability

Hyundai Hacked with an USB 8 photos
Photo: Fox 2 Detroit on YouTube
"Hacked" Hyundai"Hacked" HyundaiThe Damaged Kia SoulThe Damaged Kia SoulThe Video that Started the "Kia Challenge"The Video that Started the "Kia Challenge"The Damaged Kia Soul
Stealing a Kia or a Hyundai with just an iPhone charger is becoming a major headache for public authorities. Police must now deal with numerous thefts. This takes time and resources. Seattle’s City Attorney wants the automakers to pay and accuses them of “cutting corners and costs and the expense of their customers and the public.”
If by now you have not heard about the “Kia Boyz Challenge,” then you might be one of the lucky persons out there who does not own an older Hyundai or Kia. A video that spread like wildfire on TikTok last year shows just how easy it is to turn on a vehicle made by the two automakers between 2010 and 2021.

Essentially, it showed everyone that hot-wiring a Kia or a Hyundai that does not have an immobilizer can be performed with an iPhone charger or almost any other USB cable for that matter. What’s worse is that nefarious parties who end up doing this illegal challenge may not even want to steal the vehicle – they just want to be a part of the latest internet craze. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a fad.

Now, the Seattle City Attorney announced that both Hyundai and Kia are going to have to deal with another federal lawsuit. In the filing, it is said that even though the auto companies know about this vulnerability, they chose to not take “meaningful steps to address the problem.”

“From 2021 to 2022, thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars increased by 363% and 503%, respectively, in Seattle. In July 2023, alone, the Seattle Police Department reported a 620% increase in reports of stolen Hyundais and Kias,” explained Ann Davison in a press release.

Seattle City Attorney said that Police had to deal with an increased number of issues because Hyundai and Kia “chose to cut corners and cut costs,” which is affecting law enforcement’s resources. Davison intends to recover damages for the city and wants to force manufacturers to act faster by providing a reliable solution.

The trend picked up steam thanks to the social network’s algorithm that may reward tons of views to those who follow it. Although illegal and morally corrupt, the challenge slowly started to become a major problem in the U.S. It has spurred the rise of Kia and Hyundai car thefts in the last couple of months. What’s worse is that it does not show any signs of stopping. More and more reports are pouring in about vehicles made by South Korean manufacturers which are being stolen.

The Damaged Kia Soul
Photo: WTHR on YouTube/Alissa Smart
In some cases, the thieves can’t perform the said trick. So, they leave the cars with broken windows and messed-up dashes. This has caused serious problems for many Americans who rely on their cars to go to work, as people who had a Hyundai or a Kia have previously said that they have even been fired from their job because they weren’t able to drive.

But both Hyundai and Kia told Americans in September last year that they are going to provide a solution that should prevent such thefts or joy rides from happening. The security kit in question was supposed to be installed at dealerships across the country. However, it looks like not many people have heard about the initiative, nor have they learned about the steering wheel locks which were to be supplied after the brands consulted with police forces.

Kia and Hyundai are supposedly providing free steering wheel locks for buyers whose cars do not have immobilizers. But recent customer reports say that getting their hands on one has been complicated.

Surprisingly, Canadians aren’t dealing with this issue. That may be thanks to anti-theft devices becoming mandatory in 2007.

Immobilizers became standard on Hyundais and Kias sold in the U.S. in November 2021.

Finally, another lawsuit targeting Kia and Hyundai was announced last year, in September. Multiple owners filed a national class action lawsuit against the companies for selling vehicles with this vulnerability. It was filed in a federal court in Orange County, California.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
Press Release
About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories