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The viral TikTok challenge forced Hyundai and Kia to change the software on millions of vehicles.

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Following the so-called “Kia Challenge” on social media, which led to hundreds of vehicle thefts, over 8 million vehicles are now eligible for the free anti-theft software upgrade.

In response to a surge in car thefts caused by a trending social media challenge TikTok and Kia are providing free software updates for millions of their vehicles.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the so-called “Kia Challenge” on the social networking platform has sparked hundreds of auto thefts around the country, resulting at least 14 recorded wrecks and eight fatalities. The so-called “Kia Boys” thieves would publish how-to videos showing how to defeat the security system of the cars with tools as basic as a USB cord. This is not the first time when a Tik Tok challenge has caused loss and fatalities in the country.

Because many Hyundai and Kia vehicles from 2015 to 2019 lack electronic immobilisers, which prohibit criminals from just breaking in and bypassing the ignition, the thefts are apparently simple to carry out. Nearly other automobiles from the same time period built by other manufacturers come with the feature as a standard equipment.

Many car thefts countrywide have been caused by the fictitious “Kia Challenge” on social media.

The “theft alarm software logic” will be updated by Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia in order to increase the alarm sound’s duration from 30 seconds to one minute. The modified automobiles will also require a key in the ignition switch in order to start.

Some vehicle control modules on Hyundai vehicles with common “turn-key-to-start” ignition systems are modified by the software upgrade. In order to prevent the vehicles from being started in the widely used theft mode, locking the doors with the key fob sets the factory alert and activates an “ignition kill” feature. Customers are required to unlock their vehicles using the key fob to deactivate the “ignition kill” feature.

According to Hyundai, the software upgrade will do the following:

Some vehicle control modules on Hyundai vehicles with common “turn-key-to-start” ignition systems are modified by the software upgrade. In order to prevent the vehicles from starting when subjected to the widely popular technique used in theft mode, locking the doors with the key fob sets the factory alert and activates an “ignition kill” feature. Consumers can disable the “ignition kill” feature by using the key fob to unlock their cars.

Although there hasn’t been a comprehensive census of the number of Hyundai and Kia vehicles stolen, statistics from various cities give an idea of how widespread the practise has become. For instance, according to Milwaukee police, 469 Kias and 426 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2020.

According to NPR, those figures increased sharply the following year to 3,557 Kias and 3,406 Hyundais. About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are qualified for the software update free of charge

A total of 8.3 million vehicles—3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias—are eligible for the free software update. Owners of vehicles are advised to bring their vehicles to a nearby dealership where specialists will install the upgrades in under an hour. A window decal indicating that the upgraded vehicles have been equipped with anti-theft technology will also be provided.

Owners of the 2017–2020 Elantra, 2015–2019 Sonata, and 2020–2021 Venue vehicles are qualified for the update as of this week. Beginning in June 2023, services will be provided for other models, such as Kona, Palisade, and Santa Fe automobiles. Consumers can check their eligibility for the upgrade by entering their vehicle’s VIN number on this website. Later this month, Kia will launch its phased implementation.

Hyundai used to charge customers at least $170 for security kits to address the problem. Adding labour and installation might bring those expenditures to $500. In order to deter theft, Hyundai and Kia also offered certain owners wheel locking. Since November 2022, the enterprises, according to NTSA, have distributed 26,000 wheel locks.

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