Kia, Hyundai Pay Millions in Tik-Tok Inspired ‘Kia Boys’ Thefts

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Videos spreading on Tiktok detailing how to break into Kia and Hyundai vehicles sparked a concerning trend which rapidly evolved into criminal behavior, angering the officials of New York City and a string of other local governments across America. Frustrated by the surge in stolen car reports traceable to the online tutorials, the authorities decided to take legal action and filed lawsuits against the two South Korean automakers.

Considerable alarm was raised over how easily accessible information on social media appeared to incite and enable property theft on a wide scale. Facing the blended threats of climbing vehicular crime rates and potential liability, the targeted car companies saw themselves compelled to re-examine the security of their designs and step up messaging discouraging unlawful acts.

After a Tiktok account named KiaBoyz posted a series of videos teaching how to break into Hyundai and Kia cars, car theft in the US has increased rapidly over the past two years.

Specifically, many Kia and Hyundai models produced from 2011 to 2021 only had mechanical keys and were not equipped with Immobilizers – which are considered a standard anti-theft feature in the global automotive manufacturing industry – so they could be easily unlocked and have become “easy targets” for criminals. The lack of immobilizers in these vehicles meant the cars could be broken into very easily just by using a laptop and USB cables, as shown in the viral Tiktok videos, leading to a surge in thefts across various US cities.

Both Kia and Hyundai are now facing lawsuits from authorities in major states like New York and Illinois over failure to implement adequate security measures in their vehicles. The controversial Tiktok videos are believed to have emboldened criminals and significantly contributed to the theft epidemic plaguing Kia and Hyundai owners in recent times. The automakers are facing growing pressure to offer security upgrades to vulnerable models and tighten protocols to prevent such thefts in future.

According to preliminary statistics, it is estimated that the number of thefts targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Chicago has increased by as much as 800% from August 2022 to August 2023. This number also saw an 85% rise in the Los Angeles area.

The consequences arising from these car theft incidents included a wide range of illegal activities, gang involvement, reckless and unlawful street racing endangering public safety. There were even cases of robbery and murder linked to the theft of vehicles from the two South Korean brands. The extent of damages is impossible to fully account for.

Beyond financial losses, the psychological impact on victims have been immense with many now living in a constant state of fear and anxiety after their vehicles were stolen in driveway burglaries. The brazen nature of these crimes have also seriously undermine public confidence in both automakers’ ability to properly safeguard their customers’ property.

Hyundai and Kia now face growing pressure from US authorities and consumers to implement robust security architecture across more models as well as offer compromise solutions to those still driving vulnerable vehicles without immobilizers. The crisis underscore the importance of cybersecurity in automotive industry.

Theft has even become a "trend" and has seriously transformed.

Although both Kia and Hyundai have had solutions such as releasing software updates to patch security for more than 8 million vehicles or even equipping steering wheel locks for some car owners. However, this solution proved not to be very effective, because the number of thefts still increased steadily.

A Hyundai representative said that the company has equipped the Immobilizer feature as standard on all cars sold in the US after October 2021. Both companies have coordinated with law enforcement as well as social networking units to fight illegal acts, but in practice they have not yet shown effectiveness.

This made the government angry. The developments were pushed to a climax when the New York government decided to sue the two brands Hyundai – Kia in Manhattan federal court on June 7, 2024, accusing these two manufacturers of “harmful acts”. community”. A series of other city governments across the United States have also taken similar actions, such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Seattle…

Immediately, this information caused Hyundai’s shares to drop 2% and Kia’s shares to drop more than 5% in the trading session on June 8. Previously, Hyundai and Kia also had to settle with a series of car owners in the US when they were hit with a class action lawsuit and were forced to pay up to 200 million USD to compensate about 9 million of these customers.

Author comments:

From an objective standpoint, the behavior of the “Kia Boys” in posting videos teaching how to steal cars seems extremely unethical and illegal. Their actions likely contributed to a significant rise in property crimes, endangered public safety, and caused financial and emotional distress to many victims. While the automakers certainly share some responsibility for security lapses, openly spreading information to enable theft is inexcusable. Overall it’s a sad situation that harmed innocent people, damaged trust, and highlights the need for manufacturers and social media platforms to take reasonable precautions against such abusive behavior.

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