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Key Fob Hacking a World Epidemic

Hacking Someone's Car via the Key Fob

Your car is always listening, but are you paying attention? With today's sophisticated security advancements in every aspect of our lives, including our cars and homes, today's security systems are amazingly effective. But, when every new piece of technology comes out, hackers and other people with malicious intentions are actively searching for ways to beat it. Here at Golden West Collision, we have seen an epidemic in Sunnyvale, CA and worldwide where hackers are breaking into vehicles via your vehicle's electronic key fob.

In almost all of the newer automobiles out there, you can open your car (and even start your engine) simply by pushing a button on your key fob as you approach your vehicle. Wirelessly unlocking your car is handy, but it can compromise your vehicle's safety too. Without very little knowledge, even a lower level wannabe hacker can easily intercept your key fob's signal and open your car without tripping any alarms. If you have a true keyless car model, the thieves might be able to simply drive away, which is scary and obviously perplexing.

So, how do these hackers break into your car?

A key fob contains a computer chip to create a one-of-a-kind code that is sent to your vehicle's security system. The car also has a chip that uses the same algorithm to generate these codes. If the codes match up, the car opens. There's a bit more to it, but those are the basics. A skilled hacker will be able to take control without much difficulty

Technology experts claim that if hackers can capture your wireless signal simply twice, they can rapidly whittle down the possible combinations from billions down to less than approximately a quarter million. Once they have attained this data, it is easy for a computer to find the code in approximately 30 minutes.

In another scenario, a thief can sit on a street, just like any street here in Sunnyvale, and gather wireless signals as car owners go in and out of their vehicles. In this situation, only a skilled car thief or hacker can do it this way, so it is unlikely that it will happen to you.

However, if you have what they call an "always-on key fob", you may be more susceptible to car theft. As long as your keys are in the hacker's range, anyone can get into your vehicle and the system will think it's you, and that's why newer cars won't unlock until the key fob is within 12 inches of the car.

Today, there is now an amplifier that can detect key fob signals from up to 300 feet away from your vehicle. This means that hackers can hijack your key fob's data and steal your car while the key fob is supposedly safe in your house. Over the past year, more and more criminals are stealing cars this way.

How can you prevent it from happening to you?

Fortunately, there are some simple steps to take in order to prevent hackers from ripping off your signal. To achieve this, purchase a signal-blocking pouch that can hold your keys or place your key fob in your refrigerator or freezer. The multiple layers of metal will obstruct your key fob's signal. But first, make certain to check with your key fob's manufacturer in order to ascertain that freezing your key fob won't damage it.

If you follow some of these easy steps, you can reduce the chances of anyone stealing your car via your key fob--giving you a sense of security and that coveted peace of mind.

Sources: Wikipedia, USA Today and Fox News 

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