There was a time you wouldn’t get very far in your car without a key. Fast forward to 2019, and the keyless car is not only common, it’s becoming the standard. The question is, how safe are keyless cars and what can you do to protect your keyless car?
Rather than physically unlocking their doors with a key, some cars are now 'keyless', meaning you can simply walk towards them with your key fob which sends an encrypted code to the car to automatically unlock the doors for you. This unique, encrypted signal is designed to only work over a very short range and once you are inside, you can start your engine at the touch of a button.
Car thieves are now exploiting keyless technology by using devices to amplify the short-range signal generated by your key fob, in order turn it into a long-range car hacking beacon.
Typically, two devices are used in a keyless car heist - the first is used right outside your home to pick up the signal from the key fob inside, bouncing it to the second device which is likely positioned right next to your car. This second device fools the car into thinking your fob is approaching it, allowing thieves to easily gain entry and drive away at the push of a button.
Thieves have always been able to take advantage of vulnerabilities in car security, but owners can take steps to make it much more difficult for them, which we’ve outlined below. Some of these are general car security steps, while others are more specific to keyless cars.
Keyless or not, a car is a car. This means it’s important to start with the basics of car security first. Ensure your vehicle is parked in a well-lit or secure area, properly locked and all valuables are removed. Once in your home or office, ensure your car keys are as far away from doors and windows as possible, preferably shut inside a drawer.
As keyless car crime has spiked, several anti-theft pouches have hit the market that are designed to block signals emitted by the key. Keep your key inside the Faraday pouch when not in use, and the special material will prevent a relay amplifier from picking up its unique signal and transmitting it. Only buy these from a reputable source to ensure you aren’t buying duds from the thieves themselves.
Some keyless fobs can be turned off when you don’t need to use them. Consult the manual or contact the manufacturer to find out if this is possible for the key fob to your car.
It's also worth checking with the manufacturer if any software updates are available, as it may be that a new firmware for preventing keyless car theft has been developed since you got your car.
Consider signing up to a subscription with a security company like Tracker. They can fit a tracking device to your car and use it to trace its location if it's stolen. According to the company, stolen cars fitted with its technology are almost twice as likely to be recovered.
As criminals turn to technology, many owners are going back physical security measures such as steering wheel locks and driveways with gates or barriers.
Making life difficult for thieves in this way means that even if they can unlock your car, they shouldn’t be able to drive away with it. Many opportunistic criminals will also move on to an easier target when faced with extra security that's time consuming and noisy to defeat.
If you want to talk to someone about measures you can take to protect any kind of car, why not see if your local approved garage can help?