If you have a keyless entry car, a thief could be breaking in right now. With the key in your pocket or bag, you may be wondering how this is possible. It’s simple, it is easy to do, and it is happening all over the country.
While this video tries to find a complicated way of explaining what the thieves are doing, it is actually quite simple. All a thief needs is one small device. The device is inexpensive and does not require sophisticated knowledge to assemble or use.
Keyless entry works when the car sends out a signal to your key fob. The car’s signal is very weak, so it will only reach your key fob when the fob is close by. When your fob is close to the car, it gets the signal and sends a response. The car doors then unlock for you.
The security of this design lies in distance. If the key fob is further away than a few feet, the car’s signal will not reach the fob and the fob will therefore not respond to tell the car to unlock. However, it is easy to take advantage of this sole security feature.
A thief just needs to buy a repeater. This device takes the car’s signal, amplifies it, and sends it to the key fob. The signal from the key fob is then capable of traveling several hundred feet. So if a thief amplifies the car signal so it travels hundreds of feet instead of just a couple of feet, the key fob will see that signal, think the car is near, and tell it to unlock. The door then unlocks for the thief and the thief hops right in and takes anything of value. With push-to-start ignition, stealing the car is a breeze.
In the video above, you can see the thief was wearing a backpack. He probably had this repeater device in his backpack. Then he just walked down the row of cars, testing the handles as he walked by. When he got close to this car, the device amplified the signal and sent it to the key fob; the key fob sent its return, and the door unlocked for the thief. It's just that easy.
How to protect yourself
Unfortunately, there is no download or software update that will fix this problem. The best way to protect yourself is by stopping your key fob from responding when you are not near the car. To do that, you need to place your key in a Faraday bag. A Faraday bag blocks the signals to and from your key fob. Some people have reported success just by putting their key fob in an Altoids tin. Another option is a bag like this one.
Blocking your key from sending its response signal prevents the car door from unlocking. The downside is that it also prevents your door from unlocking when you walk up to the car and want to get in. In order to unlock your door, you will have to remove the key from the RFID bag in order to get into and start the car. This a minor inconvenience compared to that of having your belongings, or your car, stolen.