Britain's AA president takes the "microwave" measure to prevent keyless car theft

Daniel Sims

Posts: 665   +27
Staff
A hot potato: Keyless car theft has become a growing issue recently, as carjackers have learned how to hack wireless key fobs. Safety measures to fight these new techniques exist, but recent comments from a British car association president bring them into question.

Since the rise of fobs that automatically unlock and start cars, car thieves have developed ways to circumvent their digital locks, and security measures have evolved in response. The situation resembles the cat-and-mouse game between hackers and security throughout the IT world.

Recently, cheap electronic devices have emerged that let thieves duplicate a fob's proximity sensor signal from within a few meters. They can then boost that signal to an accomplice standing next to the car, allowing them to open and start it. Expensive luxury cars — more likely to use proximity sensors — are obvious targets.

Police and manufacturers suggest car owners keep their fobs far away from their vehicles and away from doors and windows when not using them, ideally in a metal or aluminum container to block the signal. Sellers also offer pouches lined with metal or wire mesh which block signals when storing fobs.

However, current measures are not enough for the president of Britain's Automobile Association (AA), Edmund King. This week, King told The Telegraph that thieves stole his wife's 50,000 GBP Lexus despite her fob being in a bag in a metal box in the part of their house farthest from the car.

In response, King has begun storing the fob, bag, and box in his microwave oven. Even if this solution works, it is certainly impractical. A more robust shielding material for containers is a logical step, although that may be more expensive.

King has also resorted to an older car security measure that was quite popular in the 1990s — a steering wheel lock. He's considering installing a security post and a gate at the entrance to his driveway, which for most is prohibitively expensive.

The core of the problem is the driver's need to expose the fob when entering or exiting the vehicle. King suspects someone caught the signal from his wife's fob as she parked the car after observing their daily routine.

The ultimate solution may be to disable the proximity sensor, which many fobs allow. King thinks car manufacturers should always inform customers of this option.

Permalink to story.

 

yRaz

Posts: 4,791   +5,971
Keyless entry is a classic "solution in search of a problem". And it's created one.
I mean I wouldn't go that far. It is a nice feature to have but do the benefits outweigh the advantages? The Drivers door lock actuator on my Honda CRV broke and I've been having to use my key to lock and unlock the door and it's been a real pain. I didn't realize how much I used my key fob until I didn't have it to use.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,301   +8,478
Caught a man using that fob reader and held him at gun point until the cops arrived. They tested it and found it working and off he went to jail. Went to court and testified; also brought up that my diabetic medications were in the car and hearing that the judge added a few more years on this fellows sentence .... but the lesson is that you have to watch people around you if you use the fob. If you manually lock the door from inside no signal is sent. Same for using your key and manually opening the door .....
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 847   +1,362
As soon as this started happening in Europe 4 years ago, Tesla added “PIN to Drive” as a software update. It’s essentially basic 2FA, you have your keyfob which is supposed to prove you’re physically present (ie. like an auth app) and the knowledge of your password (a 4 digit code). The PIN pad rotates its location on the screen to prevent a forensic attack vector.
 

passwordistaco

Posts: 411   +947
Caught a man using that fob reader and held him at gun point until the cops arrived. They tested it and found it working and off he went to jail. Went to court and testified; also brought up that my diabetic medications were in the car and hearing that the judge added a few more years on this fellows sentence .... but the lesson is that you have to watch people around you if you use the fob. If you manually lock the door from inside no signal is sent. Same for using your key and manually opening the door .....
Must be nice where you live. Somebody actually stole my vehicle, got caught with my vehicle with a bunch of stolen parts on it, full of other stolen items, and a varied assortment of other stolen stuff. Got a whole 90 days.:mad:
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,305   +952
I could be barking up the wrong tree - but surely they could add a second or third stage to pass access to overcome this - probably oh will just make it to expensive- same as visa cards just doing enough .
Could even have a fingerprint reader on fob .

Surely the real fob - should have a movement sensor - hey I'm getting a signal from car - yet I have not moved - you need to 2nd stage identification .

Or even an on off button ( how easy is that? ) - Car owner controls it - when switched off - no signal to boost . - this won't stop out and about - popping into shops - but at least at home, work , church etc

If I can think of a few things in a few minutes - then why is this a problem ?
 

p51d007

Posts: 3,371   +3,032
Shoot, I even remove the key from my vehicle, and lock it, when I get gas. I've seen too many thieves steal cars when someone is filling up.
I prefer OLD SCHOOL. You put the key in the ignition and start it.
 

Chemicalfacist

Posts: 56   +45
The microwave works because it is basically a faraday cage. You could get a small one for next to your door. Years ago, I had a small box next to my front door that had my daily stuff sitting in it years ago. Not a new concept just an updated one.
 

comnut

Posts: 77   +30
Shoot, I even remove the key from my vehicle, and lock it, when I get gas. I've seen too many thieves steal cars when someone is filling up.
I prefer OLD SCHOOL. You put the key in the ignition and start it.
Yup, simple things work!!! :p

years ago, my friend had an old ford, and the locks were not good, they would accept almost any key!!! :O

so he took a normal internal house door lock , and welded it in to his car door!!! :D :E :D
 

Gregtombstone

Posts: 36   +33
The best metal to block EM is MU metal an alloy I belive of ferris iron and nickel . It's used to line rooms with medical scanners to shield against the high electro magnetic radiation emissions. Zinc plated sheet metal is a good alternative .
 

bviktor

Posts: 1,057   +1,529
You cannot have ease of access and tight security both at the same time. You have to sacrifice one for another.
Actually, it's often not that black and white.

For instance, you can use a password manager, such as Bitwarden (it's free!) with a strong password, and proper 2FA. Then you can use generated, 32 characters long random passwords for all other accounts you have. The password manager fills in those passwords automatically, both on the desktop and on mobile.

In this case, you both improved your security and made your life more convenient.
 

John Staerck

Posts: 20   +1
Just because you have the technology doesn't mean you should use it. My 20 year old remote car locking system with a button on the fob still works fine and I have never even replaced the battery (probably will having just typed that).

Not wanted technology is also on my latest washing machine and dishwasher. WTF do I want them connected to the internet; they won't load themselves by remote instruction, which is the only technological advance I see that would be of any real benefit.