How can you stop a person from stealing your car with a keyless entry? I was surprised to find out how easy it is for criminals to take a car with a system like this!
Are Keyless Cars Easier to Steal?
Keyless cars are not harder to steal than other cars, though the process does require some additional gadgets that not all ‘traditional’ criminals may have in their possession. When you start your car using a keyless system, the device that you’re carrying emits a signal that your car catches and allows for your car to start. This signal can be intercepted by some other gadgets that need to be only a few meters away.
Techniques to steal cars are improving very fast and car manufacturers and police are playing catch-up in order to keep up with the pretty innovative ways thieves are finding to get into your cars. The two main hurdles are getting inside the car and the second one is starting the engine. If both of these mechanisms use a keyless entry system, the way to get inside may be about the same for both.
How Does a Thief Steal a Keyless Entry Car?
I’m not too much of a technology guy, so understanding how the heck a person can electronically steal a car was way beyond my knowledge. Things were a lot better with just a lock, a bar on the steering wheel, and maybe a car alarm. I did end up doing some research though, since obviously knowing these things can save me a ton of time and money.
Passing On the Signal
Systems that are keyless use a very simple technology. The key fob that you carry with you send out a signal that extends a few yards. When your car is nearby, the car catches the signal and the doors unlock. Starting the car engine has a similar process except with a shorter range signal that forces you to actually be inside the car in order for your car to start.
Thieves that catch and pass on the signal (also known as a “relay”) use a transmitter that has to be near your key fob in order to catch the signal from your keys and pass it on to your car. Another person standing close to your car catches that signal and your car unlocks. The same can be done to get your car to start.
Blocking The Signal
Suppose you’re getting out of your car at the store, and press the button on your key fob to lock your car. If you’re close enough, you might get to hear the locks engaging on your car doors and trunk, but most of us just press the button and walk away. Thieves can take advantage of this and can use the same radio frequency from another device to be near your car or parking space that would essentially block the signal from your key fob from getting to your car’s receiver.
If your car doesn’t lock, the thief has an extremely easy job left to do: to open your door and get inside.
Reprogramming Your Key Fob
Have you ever seen the diagnostic port where you plug in the scanner to figure out what’s wrong with your car when the “check engine” light goes on? Computer hackers can get into the car’s software through it. I’m not sure how it works exactly, but from what I’ve researched, all they can do is download the information and make a key fob and then they can start the car if your car starts with a button instead of with a key. It can actually be very simple.
What makes this specially scary is that these devices can cost a few bucks and a thief can get into your car in less than 30 seconds. Yikes!
The Thief Just Opens the Door
If you forget the key fob inside your car, it may be enough for the car to allow someone to open it. It doesn’t sound very smart if you’re inside and you cannot simply lock your car to prevent someone from getting in just because you have the key fob with you, right? But technology can be spotty sometimes. Just please, take the fob with you.
How To Avoid Keyless Car Theft
You won’t have to worry too much about your car disappearing if you follow some common sense rules. Here are a few that I’ve learned over my experiences.
Make Sure Your Car Locks
Even my old Suburban has a loud sound when the locks engage on the doors, and the lights flash. Some newer cars have other indicators like beeps or a special alarm sound to make sure that your car is actually locked. Make sure you watch out for that.
Hide the Fob
Remember that way that thieves sort of pass on the signal to another device to get into your car? This is because they got access to your front door of your house or your purse or someplace where you normally store your keys. It may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but if I had a keyless entry car (which I do not), I would probably guard that thing just like I do my passport card or payment credit cards with those wireless signals.
Some of the items that help with this is are simply metal tins or cans, metal-lined bags (also called Faraday bags). Please try this on your own since I have not found a friend with a keyless entry car that would let me test this out myself. If you have any solutions, also please let me know.
GPS Tracking Devices
Buy a steering wheel lock, which makes driving away almost impossible and would significantly delay the theft of your car, meaning thieves will be deterred for fear of being caught in the act. You may also be able to fit a lock to your diagnostic port, preventing wired computer hacking.
The Real Odds of Your Car Disappearing
I’m somewhat grateful for the lack of high-technology in my car at times. It has a regular key, a regular old-fashioned alarm, and I use a steering wheel lock when I have to leave it parked in a lot or on the street. This didn’t stop my car from getting stolen this last time, but it did stop the thieves the first time.
Outside of a Food 4 Less grocery store, the thieves managed to get into the car but couldn’t start the car and the radio and the car itself got disconnected due to a security mechanism that I’m still trying to find out about. Apparently, as a security feature, my 2003 Suburban will shut off the computer if something gets abruptly disconnected from the dashboard or entertainment control panel.
However, just like with computers, thieves are always searching for a new way to get in and manufactures will have to keep patching up those flaws and releasing security updates for your car pretty often. I’m not sure if the keyless entry features of today’s cars are worth the risk of it getting stolen. I mean, really, how hard is it to take out a key to open up your car?