I have read an article on the teardown of a dashboard mileage manipulator dongle on Hackaday. A “CAN bus filter” device was found in a vehicle, connected to the back of its instrument cluster. When it was removed and the original connections were restored, the odometer immediately showed 40 000 kilometers more than before. The author made a quick teardown and analysis on the device but because it was supposed to be locked (according to the article), the firmware was not extracted, leaving the big question unanswered:
What it does and how it does it?
Mileage manipulation is illegal in many countries and one could easily go to jail if kept doing it. Still, this is quite common practice on the used car market and mileage manipulator devices could be easily purchased by anyone. The main purpose of these “greyish” tools is to mislead and to fool the buyers. Considering this, I was happy to extend my “to be hacked” list with them, and I also wanted to see how they work and if there is anything to do against the “attack”. Everything was set for a cool project combining car hacking, hardware hacking and reverse engineering. Due to the nature of the topic, I expect readers with less relevant technical knowledge as well, so I tried to provide a bit more details and explanation, to make sure everyone can follow along.
These boards can be found on eBay for $15-25, e.g. by searching for “18 in 1 Universal CAN Filter“. Several sellers are providing them under different fantasy names and with some variance in their supported vehicle list. I decided to order two type of CAN filters from two different sellers. They had the same functionalities, but their PCB looked a bit different. Both CAN filter devices support a bunch of car models from two major German OEMs (just look for the description in the eBay product pages). After one makes the mileage manipulation, this device will prevent the odometer’s sync and increase, by manipulating the relevant communication. For easier reference, I am calling them as #blue CAN filter and #green CAN filter in the following sections.Continue reading