CR4 - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion ®


Automotive Technology Blog

Automotive Technology

The Automotive Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about electrical/electronic components, materials, design & assembly, and powertrain systems. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Tech Takes the Wheel   Next in Blog: Automotive Robots Step Out from Safety Barrier
Close
Close
Close
14 comments

Theft By Key Fob

Posted December 16, 2016 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Key fob keyless entry theft

I have had my current car for four years now…and I am not crazy about it. I understand what it is to have a meaningful relationship with a car. (My most meaningful was with a 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme inherited from my parents, which was driven to a point that would challenge even the most forgiving of safety standards.)

Three cars later, and I have yet to duplicate that kind of affection for an automobile.

My current car has done nothing to me personally, and yet, I will admit to feeling a twinge of relief this week when I read about car theft being easier thanks to a device that replicates the signal from your key fob.

The device, which is being used primarily in Europe, was designed by car engineers to test the vulnerability of automobiles for car manufacturers and anti-theft organizations. The device, which comes in two pieces, first amplifies the signal sent from the key fob once the driver locks the car. This “copying” of the signal can be done from as far as ten feet away from the driver’s key fob. Once the signal passes to the second device, the copied key fob signal is used to “trick” the car into believing that the signal is coming from the driver’s key fob, thus allowing a thief to gain entry into the car and, in some cases, allowing a thief to start the car.

The study, conducted by NIBC (the National Insurance Crime Bureau), found that of the 35 cars tested over the course of two weeks, more than half (19) of the cars were opened with the device and most of that half (18) were started with the device. According to the study, cars that were vulnerable during the test included the 2017 Toyota Camry, 2016 Chevrolet Impala, 2015 Ford Edge, and 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.

The device also poses another issue for drivers: There aren’t any of the tell-tale signs (broken glass, car alarms) of a car break-in. Most car owners’ first reaction is that their car has been towed, and valuable time is lost in terms of reporting that theft.

To be on the safe side, all of the old rules apply: Keep your keys with you at all times, and don’t leave anything of value in the car that might entice a thief. Also, park your car in a well-lit and well-populated section of a parking lot.

And although there aren’t many reports of this device being used in the United States yet, and with technology being what it is, there will surely be a variation of the device to come, offering a glimmer of hope to those of us not in love with our cars.

Image credit:

ReplaceRemote / CC BY-SA 3.0

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain, and now disconnecting as Little England and Wales (not too sure about Wales bit, either). Kettle's on.
Posts: 26097
Good Answers: 686
#1

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 5:01 AM

In the UK, vehicles are registered property. Therefore a vehicle cannot be "stolen"; it can only be "taken without consent", as ownership of the vehicle cannot pass to the individual that carried out the above act. A new verb has emerged: to "twoc(k)", with its past participle, "twoc(k)ed" [spellings vary], which is widely used amongst agencies that deal with vehicle crime. Just for information.

Isn't English a wonderful language (rhetorical question - NNTR)?

__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 17896
Good Answers: 312
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 8:09 AM

These cars may not be sold as cars, but taken to the chop shop, and parted out.

Now, "Stolen" or "taken without consent", the results are the same.

__________________
phoenix911
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Wannabeabettawelda

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Posts: 4004
Good Answers: 218
#3

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 12:15 PM

So many 'modern' cars have the soul of a refrigerator.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#6
In reply to #3

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 3:44 PM

It's why the British drink warm beer: Lucas makes refrigerators too.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#4

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 3:25 PM

Wouldn't a thief want to copy the signal which unlocks the car rather than the one which locks it? But as an unlock signal means the driver is back, what does the thief do, follow the car to its destination and steal it from there?

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 17896
Good Answers: 312
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 3:40 PM

that's how they do it.

__________________
phoenix911
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 1134
Good Answers: 21
#14
In reply to #4

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 3:53 PM

The opening and closing signals are not fixed. Car locks (ditto garage door locks) use a "rolling code" for communication, part of which is encrypted. The information gained from collecting the door locking signal would be sufficient to generate the unlocking signal.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 5188
Good Answers: 502
#7

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 5:35 PM

AFAIK, this kind of theft is not yet common, but it will become more common as the knowledge filters down to the low lifes.

I've seen recommendations to keep key fobs in the refrigerator or freezer, but this might harm the lithium cell that powers the fobs. You can buy a special cover that blocks RF, which removes some of the convenience or remove a lot more convenience and wrap the fob in aluminum foil.

https://www.amazon.com/FobGuard-Faraday-Protect-Keyless-Protection/dp/B010VK9ZLI

http://www.autoblog.com/2011/02/05/protect-smart-keys-from-hackers/

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/16/2016 5:48 PM

A old microwave oven makes for a great Faraday cage in which to store things like this. (to be doubly sure someone doesn't try to use it as an oven, snip the power cord)

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Sebastopol, California
Posts: 802
Good Answers: 33
#10
In reply to #8

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 9:29 AM

Because of the way a microwave oven door seals, it is only a good Faraday cage at 2.4GHz. Your cell phone will still work, and anything else that is not matched to the oven's frequency. Put your phone in there and call it. I'll bet it rings!

__________________
Most people are mostly good most of the time.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 17896
Good Answers: 312
#11
In reply to #10

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 10:13 AM

Slightly off topic about that, a while back some 'fake news' was over the Internet about putting your iPhone with iOS 8 in a microwave will charge your phone.

__________________
phoenix911
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 5188
Good Answers: 502
#12
In reply to #11

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 12:18 PM

That's an expensive way to learn not to believe everything you see on the internet.

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 17896
Good Answers: 312
#13
In reply to #12

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 2:15 PM

Sometime your worst experience is your best experience, but it may not seem that way at the time your experiencing it. I know if I did this, I'd diffintely would post it.

Anyways,....Word has it, it was the Russians.

__________________
phoenix911
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Hemet, Land of milk and honey.
Posts: 972
Good Answers: 20
#9

Re: Theft By Key Fob

12/17/2016 12:14 AM

OK, so four years ago your parents Oldsmobile died, and since then you've had three cars, hmm .

Now you have posted on a internet site that you wouldn't mind if your current car mysteriously disappeared,,.

I wonder what your auto insurance agent might say about that revelation.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Reply to Blog Entry 14 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Andrew Westman (3); Brave Sir Robin (1); Deefburger (1); phoenix911 (4); phph001 (1); PWSlack (1); Rixter (2); tonyhemet (1)

Previous in Blog: Tech Takes the Wheel   Next in Blog: Automotive Robots Step Out from Safety Barrier

Advertisement