Volvo’s digital key for unlocking cars has a basic problem

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Volvo has announced that is introducing a “digital key” to unlock and start cars via Bluetooth from next year.

Yes, that’s right. From 2017, you won’t need a physical key to get in and drive off in your Volvo.

Sounds marvellous doesn’t it?

Well, yes… until it’s pouring with rain at 3am, and you find out that your iPhone’s battery is as dead as a dodo. You won’t be able to get into your Volvo without a physical key.

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Volvo's digital key for unlocking cars has a basic problem | Graham Cluley

Furthermore, you’ll be able to use Volvo’s digital key app to remotely allow other people to get into your car.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

8 comments on “Volvo’s digital key for unlocking cars has a basic problem”

  1. coyote

    'What could possibly go wrong with that?'

    Nothing. Who would think anything could go wrong with that ? Volvo and all other car manufacturers consider security and safety their highest priority! Just ask Fiat Chrysler. The brakes being shut off remotely was actually fake (you know the amount of tricks available these days..); it was the driver trying to defame Fiat Chrysler. Everyone knows that. That's why they sent in the post USB sticks with a fix that makes it impossible for defamers to operate. Of course they had to know about it first but most people will blindly follow instructions so there was a very low chance it wouldn't go to their plan – at least as far as the customers using A (keyword) USB stick in the post.

    Your scaremongering has gotten out of hand, Graham. Volvo is doing everything many customers would want and we should all be thankful they're listening! Imagine if politicians knew what 'listen' means.

    Or perhaps not. Volvo needs to recall themselves and remain in their sanctuary until they figure out just how stupid they are being – as do all those who are in favour of the IoT. No one in their right mind would remotely give someone else access to their car (and are we – that is are [you] – sure you're granting access to the one you think you are ?). Perhaps that's the problem. Not many are in their right mind. At least in this sense.

  2. Karel

    It's probably a very expensive option. If it's not and it's a standard accessory, this will be my last Volvo. Oh wait, what do I have to drive then? Saab, thanks to GM, is gone, French cars break on monday morning, Italian cars rust in the catalogue, US Cars are just to big, and German cars… Oh well, Public transportation it will be…

  3. Alan

    Love it most user won't put a password or even a 4 digit pin on their phones. Because it just so time consuming.

    So not only do you now get access to their Contacts,email, social media accounts dodgy photos and videos you will now be able to steal their car. Which they will no doubt have the home address stored in the sat nav. All you need now is for them to have gone full auto with their garage door and you have full access to there life.

    IoT great idea in principle but most end users are just not tech savvy enough to ensure their devices and home networks are secure enough. Just in the last 2 weeks I have had 3 new customers come to me to see if I could recover their data after ransomware infected their PC's. One had a mac and argued they didn't need AV/Malware protection for a Mac. One had disabled AV software because it kept popping up messages they never bothered to read. The other had protection but had not updated it in 3 months because their subscription had lapsed and they just hadn't got round to it.

    1. Mark Jacobs · in reply to Alan

      The lazier the prey, the easier the hack.

  4. Simon

    One step forward, two steps back. It's a bit of a 'look at me' feature.

    Pointless really and potentially leaves itself vulnerable to an attack.

  5. Guy

    This is not really new: Volvo On Call has had this functionality for some time. I still have a physical key, though, and opted not to have keyless drive (a decision that looks much smarter now than on the day I took delivery!)

  6. Vito Tuxedo

    Wow…just wow. And Volvo actually thinks this is a "selling point"? Somebody in their design department forgot to ask the question, "On a scale from one to invading Russia in winter, how bad is this idea?"

  7. Chris

    The plan is for the system to be a 'bonus' system used to enable safer key sharing than literally sharing your physical key, which as you know has no security whatsoever. Every car will come with the regular keys as well. This is just an additional feature. If the battery is your big gripe, I assume you're also bitter about e-tickets when flying?

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