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How hackers access key fobs to steal cars and what you can do about it


BY KEVIN SAWYER – Due to ancient software technology found in most key fobs, hackers can easily crack your code, open your car, and drive away. A recent research study conducted at the University of Birmingham, England found that over 100 million vehicles are now vulnerable to hackers who only need about $40 worth of materials to steal any of these cars. Not only that, but in most cases, the study found, not only will the vehicle’s doors open but the engine will turn itself on also.

You can also have the most sophisticated of alarm systems installed and it won’t matter because your keyfob’s signal is telling your vehicle that it is you who is accessing it. Your keyfob has two unique systems within it. One is your access code and another is an algorithm system that continually generates security codes until it finds yours and opens your vehicle.

The researchers discovered that by breaking into a keyfob only two times, they were able to cut the possible code possibilities down from billions to just around 200,000. With that few choices, it only took them 30 minutes or so to unlock a vehicle. While the chances of this happening are not as great as you may think, it takes an experienced hacker and thief to actually pull this off.

Most keyfobs have a long distance range but the newer ones have only a range of about a foot or so from the vehicle. The cheap and available technology the thieves can use can access the signals from as far away as 300 feet. Your car keys could even be in your house and they could intercept the signals.

The best way to shield any manner of electronics signals is with copper. Go out an buy a copper pouch for your fob similar to the copper lined cases people buy for their identification cards or passports. The copper prevents electronic readers from stealing information off of RFID chips or similar electronic signals like those coming from your keyfob.

Of course, if you want to do it on the cheap, simply put your keys in the freezer when you get home. The insulated and metal walls will not allow the signals to escape. It will also work if you put your keys in your microwave oven. Don’t turn it on, of course. For true simplicity while you are away and your keys are in your pocket or your handbag, simply wrap your keys in tinfoil. if you are one of those crafty people, build yourself and nice, small, foil lined container or decorative box.