Keyless Cars, Easy Prey: Guard Your Vehicle Against Electronic Thieves
ADAC, the German auto club, warns that a moderately expensive equipment can compromise the security of more than two dozen car models.
A team of researchers found that it is easy to beef up the distance from which your keyless remote control works. By using a so-called “amplifier attack,” your car can be left for grabs from as much as 300 feet.
The catch? The device costs merely $225 and can assist thieves in remotely unlocking your car from far away. The threat addresses cars that can be remotely opened. Keyless-entry systems use a radio signal to unlock the vehicle from a short distance. Once the driver is inside, the car can be powered on by simply pressing a button.
The researchers note that it matters little where the original key is, as long as the radio connection “between keys and car can easily be extended over several hundred meters.”
The gadget works in a similar fashion to a Wi-Fi extender, which distributes the radio signal throughout your home further than a normal router. It should be mentioned that this gimmick bypasses the car’s security protocols, as it extends the real signal. The detail is important because there are some signal extenders that replicate the original key’s signature, thus triggering the alarm.
The problem is far from new, but it seems that automakers did not find time to address the issue.
According to ADAC’s report, 24 car models are vulnerable to the remote keyless break-in, with autos such as Opel Ampera, BMW 730d, Audi series A3, A4, and A6. Japanese, South Korean and American models also made the grade, with examples counting the Toyota RAV4, Kia Optima and Ford Galaxy as possible victims.
Researchers constantly compile lists of cars that are vulnerable to hacking, and with increased smart technology integration, these liabilities are increasing.
Still, there are a few ways to prevent this type of ill intent. One trick is to place your keys in a Faraday cage, a box that keeps outgoing radio signals contained. Another suggestion is to leave your car keys in the freezer, as the home appliance has the potential to act as a Faraday cage itself.
A simpler, less bothersome way to go about it would be if car manufacturers would implement a feature that kills the engine once the key goes out of range.