How to Protect Your Car from Keyless Vehicle Theft – Autoblog - Latest Global News

How to Protect Your Car from Keyless Vehicle Theft – Autoblog

LONDON – They appear like ghosts in the night, standing outside your house, one holding up an antenna while the other crouches next to the car parked in the driveway. Within seconds, your car is gone, another victim amid a spate of car thefts made possible by technology that makes unlocking and starting vehicles easier.

Automotive technology has evolved and many newer cars use wireless key fobs and push-button starters instead of traditional metal keys. The key fob sends a proximity signal so that the door is automatically unlocked when the driver approaches the car. This saves you the hassle of digging out your keys when your hands are full with shopping.

But this technology also makes things easier for thieves. The wireless key fob continues to emit a signal even when you are not using it. At night, thieves roam neighborhoods looking for cars parked outside to carry out so-called relay attacks. Using portable devices that can pick up the weak signal from a key fob in the house or parking lot, they relay it back to a transmitter that can clone the signal.

Officials have called on automakers to patch the security vulnerabilities and warn owners about the risks.

So what can you do to reduce the chances of your car disappearing in 60 seconds? “It’s relatively easy for drivers to protect themselves,” said Steve Launchbury, chief automotive safety engineer at Thatcham Research, a U.K.-based automotive risk analysis firm. Here are some tips:

Use a signal blocker

A simple but effective way to stop car bandits from stealing your key fob’s signal is to use a Faraday bag or pouch. They are lined with a conductive metal mesh that blocks the transmission of electromagnetic signals.

The bags are not expensive and there are also boxes that do the same thing. However, experts recommend testing to make sure they work. Simply insert the key fob and approach your car. If the doors do not unlock automatically, the signal is blocked.

Also remember to use it whenever you leave your vehicle and don’t forget to store all your key fobs in it, including any spare parts.

But ignore some advice making the rounds on the internet that encourages you to put your trailer in the microwave or freezer. It doesn’t have the same effect as a Faraday bag and risks damaging your key.

Get an old-fashioned lock

Try an old-fashioned solution by using a physical lock. Locks in the form of a disc or a long bar clamp on the steering wheel and make steering difficult. There are also versions that prevent the car from going into gear. Some police forces advise car owners to use these to give the impression that your vehicle is less likely to be stolen. The reason for this is that a would-be thief may be put off by the effort required to break through the lock and instead turn their attention to an easier target. The downside is that it will take you more time to install or remove when you are not driving.

Change your settings

Many cars have the option to disable the Wi-Fi setting so you can’t open the door remotely. For Fords, Hondas and Audis use the touchscreen menus. If you own a Toyota, you can temporarily disable the signal by pressing and holding the fob lock button while simultaneously pressing the unlock button twice. If you did it correctly, the trailer indicator light should flash four times. Please note that the next time you press any button, the remote unlock will be activated again.

The method varies depending on the make and model. The exact procedure can be found in your operating instructions. If it sounds complicated, there are YouTube videos to walk you through it. Don’t forget that in most cases you will now have to manually press the trailer release button.

Car manufacturers have started incorporating motion sensors into key fobs. If the sensor does not detect current movement, for example because it was left on the kitchen counter after you returned, the key fob will go into sleep mode and stop transmitting. If this feature is not available, check with your dealer to see if an upgrade is possible.

If you’re buying a used car, some experts also recommend having the keys reprogrammed in case the previous owner kept one of the key fobs.

Watch out for new methods

Researchers have discovered a new car theft technique that doesn’t rely on radio signals. The Controller Area Network (CAN) is “a feature of modern cars that allows various components and systems to communicate, and has recently been targeted and exploited by thieves,” Thatcham’s Launchbury said.

The network allows sensors and control modules to communicate directly with each other, rather than through a central node. Thieves take advantage of this by accessing the network from outside, usually by removing a headlight and connecting a device that can “feed” a signal, causing the car to unlock and start.

As automakers work to improve CAN security, “drivers today can take steps to add layers of security and deter criminals,” such as using a physical lock, Launchbury said.

Aftermarket electronic immobilizers “should render a criminal’s theft tool useless” and may even get you a discount on car insurance, he said. Thatcham and other companies offer them, but the downside is that they can be quite expensive.

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