The most common tactics aren’t technologically sophisticated, and some of the tools used to hack pumps are easily available online.
With gas prices at record highs in the U.S. in recent months, some people have turned to hacking the pump.
Since prices spiked in March, police have arrested at least 22 people across the country for either digitally manipulating computers that manage gas pumps or installing homemade devices to discount their fuel, according to an NBC News review of police and local news reports.
The most common tactics aren’t technologically sophisticated. Gas hackers take advantage of the fact that gas pump equipment in the U.S. is heavily standardized and largely relies on a handful of manufacturers that often don’t include strong security protections. And some of the hacking tools are easily available online for purchase.
While there’s no formal law enforcement metric to measure the trend, 1 in 4 convenience-store gas station owners say fuel thefts have been rising since March, said Jeff Lenard, a vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores, an industry group.
Gas theft has existed for nearly as long as there have been gas stations, Lenard said. But it was only after Hurricane Katrina, where a drastic price increase led to more thefts, that most American stations began requiring customers to prepay for gas. That led to thieves learning how to manipulate pumps and payment systems, he said, and that practice has become more common as gas prices have risen. READ MORE