The new generation cars are now full of technology from the muzzle to the trunk, which can be opened by magic simply by passing a foot under the bumper or by approaching it with the keys in your pocket. This along with other new features are due to a system called Keyless, which provides a key capable of emitting medium-short range signals and a car capable of receiving coded messages. There are now many models on the market that allow us, only by holding the keys in our pockets and approaching / moving away from the car, to open / close the doors, the boot, to start using a button without inserting the key anywhere – can remain in your pocket, in your bag, resting on the central tunnel of the car. All wonderful, pity though that thieves are always in step with the times and many of the models in circulation – especially those produced a few years ago – are extremely vulnerable to relay attacks.
What is a relay attack on the Keyless system
Relay attacks are very low, they do not require thieves violence, physical force or special efforts. Usually two people are needed, one who approaches the house to “snort” and pick up the medium-short range signal emitted by the keys, another that receives the signal amplified by the accomplice – enhanced to get to the car. As if by magic, in a few milliseconds, the targeted car magically opens and starts as if nothing had happened – so thieves don’t even have to deal with ignition cables anymore as it did some time ago.
The question of the safety of this system has recently returned to the pages of specialized magazines because of a new study that poses a serious alarm on more than a million Kia, Toyota and Hyundai cars that use the same encryption (now obsolete) of Texas Instruments. The brands immediately specified that these are old models, no longer in production, but the problem for many users remains current and for this reason we have decided to give you some advice to defend you from relay attacks.
The easiest and cheapest advice to give is to use one small protective bag in which to keep the keys. Also call Faraday Bag, these small bags prevent the waves emanating from the key from leaving the house when we are not using the car. On the market there are different models of bags of this type, more and less cheap, which alone are enough to avoid night attacks, with the bad guys who maybe try to pick up the signal from your courtyard.
Some car models then allow for deactivate the wireless signal directly on the keys issued; in this case the advice is to disconnect everything when you return home and you are not going to use the car for a medium-long period – which also means all night. Even in this way the attack is averted, no thief can pick up a signal that is not emitted. Of course then there are always the good old methods: even if thieves pick up the signal from your key, a good system of steering lock or pedals it can prevent theft, as it will be impossible to drive the car while starting it.
If, on the other hand, you buy a second hand car equipped with a Keyless system, the primary advice is to reprogram the key and vehicle signal, so that no one who has had contact with the car previously can enter it. In the world in which we live we can no longer trust anyone, think if someone sells you his keyless car just to take it back in comfort with a device programmed and aligned to the signal of the car, you must absolutely avoid any risk.
VIN and new technologies
Another tip can relate to parking: surely having an indoor garage can make theft more difficult, in case you have a driveway park as far as possible from the keys (read also: keep the keys in the house as far as possible from the car), or make access to the car as difficult as possible – on the web there are many videos of cars parked without any barrier, open and carried away by the bad guys without any effort.
Another tip may relate to the VIN of the car, a unique identity number, which would be a good and right thing to have engraved on all car windows – so as to make life more difficult for thieves, who must be careful to resell the vehicle or its parts. Have the VIN engraved on multiple parts of the car could make the bad guys give up from completing the hit. Fortunately the risks are lower with the newest generation cars, which offer one better and more complicated encryption to decrypt – we do not know how long it will take the increasingly technological thieves to break the current barriers. We fight an endless war and we must always be prepared for the worst.