Keyless entry systems in cars may be a step forward in convenience, but that benefit comes at the steep price of compromised security.
Business Insider reported that two carjackers had been filmed using devices called relay boxes to pick up the signal from the set of keys inside the house and re-broadcast that signal in another location, thus opening up the car. The entire process was less than a minute long.
Another method reported by the Telegraph utilized a radio amplifier, which involves altering the radio frequency in the car to trick the keyless sensor technology into detecting a nearby “fob”. The affected European models include the Ford Galaxy, Audi A3, Toyota Rav4, Volkswagen Golf GTD, and Nissan Leaf. Researchers believe that dozens of other keyless models could be at risk.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau tested a similar relay device on used cars at dealerships and found that in 19 of its 35 tests, the device was able to unlock the vehicle. In 18/19 of those entries, it was able to start the car. NICB said that these relay boxes are just one variety of a vast potential for wireless theft devices, which means that automakers are going to have to bolster vehicle security.
While it is ultimately up to the manufacturers to develop defenses for this, there are a few things you can do as a car-owner to protect your vehicle.
First, you should contact your dealer and ask about the digital features in your car, specifically whether or not there have been any software updates that can be implemented. Next, check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off – if it can, do so when you will be away from the vehicle.
Finally, for additional peace of mind you can use a steering-lock or keep your fob in a faraday bag – which is a pouch designed to block radio transmissions.
This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more information like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter!