WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA)--Sophisticated computer hackers have targeted sensitive government accounts, personal financial information and other private data.
And now, a new threat may be emerging in the cyber-security world: high-tech hackers that are making newer model cars vulnerable.
A Maryland family suspects that is how it was victimized.
Daphne Northan said, "Initially, I was really, really hurt. I said how could someone do that?"
While Daphne Northan's son, Nathan, serves our country in Afghanistan, someone stole his treasured 2011 Dodge Charger, right from the driveway of the family home.
"Nathan loved that car," said his mother.
"I said, 'Oh my goodness. Oh my,'" recalled Nathan's father, Cliff Northan.
We met Nathan Jefferson's parents just hours after they discovered the theft.
"He's serving our country well and my goodness, to hear such news while hes away is kind of heartbreaking," said his father.
The car was loaded with top-of-the-line technology features and ironically, that may have made it more vulnerable to high-tech hackers.
At a cyber-security conference last month, researchers showed how they could actually use a cell phone to unlock and start a cars engine remotely, by accessing a security system linked to a computer network.
"You have to have the working knowledge of how to steal a car and have a good computer knowledge to go along with it," said Tom Reich, a Special Agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, who says it's a highly sophisticated car theft.
"The only way I know of, is that you have to hook into the actual on-board computer," he said.
And that's what Nathan's parents suspect. In recent days, they noticed something strange happening with the car's electronics, something beyond their control.
"It now all makes sense while the lights were just going awry. The horn blowing when it shouldn't have been blowing. It all now makes sense," said Clifton Northan.
"Even the lights on the house. Someone tampered with the lights to make sure that our lights couldnt come on. So we think it was all planned out,' said Daphne Northan.
A day after the car was stolen, it was recovered without a scratch. Police told the Northans the car had been towed away in a stolen tow truck. The thieves actually ran out of gas.
Written by Andrea McCarren
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