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Don’t Let Your Car Key Fob Get Hacked

If you frequent Nextdoor or your neighborhood Facebook page, you probably read about car break-ins more often than is comfortable. Car owners often forget to lock up each night, making it easy for thieves to gain access to the loose change, laptops, sunglasses, and more. Insurance covers items stolen from your car (after the deductible), but the cost of the inconvenience and frustration often outweigh the replacement costs for the items.


But did you know that your car’s key fob can get hacked and give intrepid robbers quick access to your locked car? They don’t need a matching key fob; they use “signal boosting” instead.


Signal Boosting


“Boosting” in car break-in context means stealing a signal. Hackers use a device that tricks your car and key fob into thinking they are in close proximity. The device then emits the fob’s unlock signal, and voila – your belongings are free for the taking.


Unfortunately, there are also some devices that can turn on cars with keyless ignitions or others that “rolljam” your key fob to spoof the unlock signal. These are harder to come by and cost much more than the $20 signal boost devices favored by would-be thieves, so they aren’t used as often.


How You Can Stop Signal Boosting

Photo of Ticonn car key and credit card signal blocker case.

Two-factor authentication is an excellent defense for computer hackers but is not yet available for cars. You can block signals from reaching your key fob with a Faraday bag which creates a reliable electromagnetic barrier that stops any signals from getting in or out of the bag. Just put your key fob in the bag when you lock your car, and everything inside will remain where you left it.


If you don’t want to purchase a Faraday blocking container (they come in all shapes and sizes from a box to wallet to key-fob holder), you can put your key fobs in thick metal objects, like a refrigerator or safe, but it’s not foolproof protection against hackers with more robust signal boosters.


If you don’t have a safe or trust your key in a refrigerator, experts advise that you keep your key fob as far away from your car so there are as many obstacles between the two like walls, furniture, and appliances that can block signals.


While it is sometimes hard to do, try not to keep spare keys, fobs, garage door remotes, or other valuables in your car. The less attractive you make trying to break in, the less likely you’ll be robbed.

Faraday containers are available at many online retailers. Some security experts recommend placing cell phones, credit cards, and key fobs in Faraday holders when not in use. Hackers are becoming more clever by the minute, and an extra layer of protection provides peace of mind that your possessions, money, and identity are safe.



 


Sources: LifeHacker, CNet, Amazon