There are several forms of tuning protection implemented on to modern engine ECUs by car manufacturers. Let’s discuss these in the order that we come across them when tuning a vehicle.
The first main form of read/write protection was to password protect the processor of the ECU. This was cracked by the leading tuning tool manufacturers so poses no problem to us anymore. For these ECU types we initially had to bench program, we also had the option to ‘patch’ the ECU so that OBD programming was allowed after this (Bosch EDC17C10 1.6 HDI, EDC17C60 1.6 BlueHDI).
OBD Read / Write protection. After a while, the tuning tools were updated again and they could program these password protected ECUs over OBD. On some ECUs an OBD read is blocked, however the programming tools are able to write to these ECUs. We have a very simple solution to that using certified original file databases from the producers of tuning tools (How they obtain these files I’m not so sure, most likely they buy them from the OEM or download them from dealer level diagnostic tools which are able to do software updates).
As programming tools got better the car manufacturers gave up on password protecting the processor and instead switched to a very complex RSA checksum like on the Bosch MD1 ECUs (1.5 HDI 2018 onwards). Initially this was a problem because for each different car brand using MD1 ECUs and each model of MD1 the RSA checksum calculation was different. After a while this was also cracked by the creators of the tuning tools and they developed different algorithms for each ECU model.
This is why it’s essential to stay up to date with the latest tuning tools, and most importantly genuine tuning tools which receive updates from the supplier.