Police Bust Gang of High-Tech Car Thieves

New imported cars in the port of Eilat. (Matanya Tausig/Flash90)

After a lengthy investigation, police said they have arrested members of a gang from Arab neighborhoods of Yerushalayim who stole dozens of vehicles in the Yerushalayim area, worth millions of shekels. The three detainees had a unique method of stealing the new cars with modern security systems, police said; they would break into the computers of the distributors of the cars abroad and steal the security codes for the vehicles they stole.

The gang had acquired an account on the computers of the European distributors of several car makers, who are responsible for the shipment of vehicles to Israel. Members of the gang would survey upper-crust neighborhoods of Yerushalayim and its suburbs where better cars were common, and acquire identifying information, like license plate and VIN numbers, that could be used to track down information about the vehicles on the distributors’ computers.

On those computers were databases that included information such as security codes, and codes required to duplicate keys. With that information, they were able to disable the security systems on vehicles, and used a key duplication operation in Ramallah and Chevron to manufacture replacement keys for the vehicles.

Police called the operation very sophisticated and “very extensive.” Detained as accessories in the case were employees of a garage in the southern part of Yerushalayim, who transferred the key information to the duplicators. A search of a safe in the residence of one of the gang members yielded dozens of keys, with information about the car, its location and its current status attached.

It’s not clear how the gang got access to the computers in the offices abroad, but police suspect that the gang had run a phishing operation, where they tricked employees into divulging information about logins and passwords that the gang was eventually able to use to infiltrate the databases. “We view the use of technology in the service of crime as a very serious matter, and we will continue to investigate this and other data security crimes with all the resources available,” police said in a statement.

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