With new software patch rollout, days may be numbered for ‘Kia boys’

Milwaukee-area “Kia boys” go for a ride in a YouTube video that went viral in June 2022. | TommyGMcGee

There is a new wrinkle in the “Kia boys” fad that has swept Chicago and other parts of the country since social media videos taught young people how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles with little more than a USB plug by exploiting a flaw in the vehicles’ ignitions.

Both car companies are now offering a software update for cars with turn-key ignitions that were made between 2015 and 2019.

CBS2 recently reported that 10% of Kias and 7% of Hyundais registered in Chicago had been stolen in 2022. And CWB Chicago reported two weeks ago that some insurance companies were refusing to issue new policies for the affected models.

Among other things, the updated software will require the car doors to be unlocked with its key fob before the vehicle starts. That could defeat “Kia boys,” who enter locked cars by breaking a side window. Like this guy over the weekend:

After being updated, the cars won’t start without a key in the ignition, and the vehicles’ alarms will sound for a minute instead of 30 seconds.

The companies said Hyundai and Kia would install the patches at no charge. About 8.3 million cars may need the upgrade. The companies expect to begin installations this month. Hyundai said it would prioritize 2017 to 2020 Elantras, 2015 to 2019 Sonatas, and 2020 and 2021 Venues.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, Hyundai charged $170 plus installation for a “security kit” to fix the design flaw. Both companies distributed steering wheel locks that could prevent thefts. But those locks are also vulnerable because dedicated thieves can cut them off.

Kia and Hyundai owners can learn more about the program and sign up for installation at this website.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com