The Growing Risk of Keyless Car Thefts

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

The same technology that was designed to make it easier to unlock and start vehicles has brought with it a surge in auto theft.

With the advancements in auto technology, many newer cars use wireless key fobs and push-button starters instead of traditional metal keys – the fob sends a short-range signal when the driver approaches the car and automatically unlocks the door.

Unfortunately, this technology also makes things easier for thieves, since the wireless fob continues to emit a signal even if it is not actively being used. Because of this loophole, criminals prowl neighborhoods at night looking for cars parked outside so they can carry out a “relay attack” using portable equipment that can pick up the faint signal from a fob inside the house or parking lot and relay it back to a transmitter that can clone the signal and unlock the car.

So what can be done to protect these modern cars from keyless auto theft? Following are some tips from experts at Techxplore:

The simplest (yet most effective) way to stop criminals from stealing a key fob’s signal is to use a Faraday bag or pouch, which is lined with a conductive metal mesh that blocks the transmission of electromagnetic signals. Another old-fashioned solution is to simply use a physical lock, which could be physically protective and dissuade criminals from attempting to steal the vehicle.

A more technological solution is changing the car’s settings – many smart cars have the option to deactivate the wireless setting so that you would not be able to open the door remotely.

Automakers have reportedly begun taking action and adding motion sensors to key fobs. This way, if the fob does not sense movement after a while (meaning the owner was in fact not moving towards their car), it goes into sleep mode and stops transmitting.

However, researchers reportedly found a new and different theft technique. Modern cars have a feature that allows different components and systems to communicate called the “controller area network” (or CAN), and it has recently been targeted and exploited by thieves. This network allows the sensors and control modules to communicate directly, and criminals use this quality by accessing the network from the car’s exterior and connecting a device that can “inject” a signal and trick the car into unlocking and starting.

This information was provided by Techxplore.