Your car is always listening. Not for your voice, but for an electronic signal, such as the coded “unlock” signal from your electronic key fob.
If it’s a newer car model, you might not have to press any buttons; just approach your car and the doors will unlock automatically. In some cars, the engine will even turn on.
Wirelessly unlocking your car is convenient, but it can come at a price.
Criminals can easily turn your key fob against you
We’re talking about your key fob’s signal and how easy it is for criminals to intercept. If someone successfully intercepts your key fob’s signal, they can open your car without setting off any alarms.
Also, newer model cars don’t even need a key to turn on the engine. You simply push a button once the vehicle recognizes your key fob, which could be a criminal who stole your signal.
Watch the following video to see how easy it is for a couple criminals to pull this caper off. This footage was recently released by a police department in England.
Always-on key fobs present a serious weakness in your car’s security. As long as your keys are in range, anyone can open the car and the system will think it’s you. That’s why newer car models won’t unlock until the key fob is within a foot.
However, for less than $100, criminals can get an amplifier that detects key fob signals up to 300 feet away, and then transmits them to your car. In other words, your keys could be in your house, and criminals could walk up to your car and open it. This isn’t just a theory either; it’s actually happening.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to keep hackers from stealing your signal.
How to outsmart the thief
If you don’t want to spend any money, you can stick your key fob into the refrigerator or freezer. The multiple layers of metal will block your key fob’s signal. Just check with the fob’s manufacturer to make sure freezing your key fob won’t damage it.
If you’re not keen on freezing your key fob, you can do the same thing with your microwave oven. (Hint: Don’t turn it on.) Stick your key fob in there, and criminals won’t be able to pick up its signal. Like any seasoned criminal, they’ll just move onto an easier target.
Since your key fob’s signal is blocked by metal, you can also wrap it up in aluminum foil. While that’s the easiest solution, it can also leak the signal if you don’t do it right. Plus, you might need to stock up on foil. You could also make a foil-lined box to put your keys in, if you’re in a crafting mood.
Key fobs are just the beginning for thieves. Car hacking is real and dangerous, here’s how to protect yourself
The computers in modern cars also run the steering, traction control, airbags, cruise control, tire management, security, entertainment and more. That’s great for safety, comfort, convenience and efficiency, but there’s an unavoidable downside: Computers can be hacked.