Many modern cars come with a so-called “keyless go” key. To open the vehicle, the owner only has to carry the remote control on his body. Unfortunately, thieves also use these radio signals. atechbook tells you how to protect yourself.
Car manufacturers tout keyless go as a convenience feature. After all, opening and starting the car by key is no longer necessary. Instead, all you need to do is carry the transmitter with a radio chip with you so that the car opens as if by magic. But experts also see a high security risk in this radio technology. This is because thieves can intercept the radio connections and thus open vehicles without any problem, even if the key is 50 meters away. Thefts of this kind have been occurring for years, and the ADAC is currently warning of new incidents. But what can you do to protect yourself and your car from such keyless-go thefts?
How Keyless Go works
Keyless Go is a radio technology that opens and starts the car without an actual key or keystroke. It is widely used and, in addition to cars, can also be found on motorcycles.
The vehicle is assigned an individual radio key that is stored on the keyless go key. As soon as the driver approaches with the key, the car recognizes the radio code and unlocks. All that is then needed to open the car is to press the door handle, and all that is needed to start the engine is to press the start button.
Thieves work with radio range extenders
Back in 2018, BILD reported on high-tech thieves in the Saxony-Anhalt area. Due to the clustered incidents, AUTO BILD’s experts wanted to know exactly how easy it is to actually crack a car with keyless go. They therefore replicated the hacking technology for about 90 euros. A so-called radio range extender ensures that the signals from the key are also received at the car – even though there is a large distance between the two. The chip in the remote control then gives the go-ahead to open the door.
Even if the key is then in the house, it is not sufficiently protected. With appropriate technology, criminals could extend the signal, as shown in the video. “The tricky thing about this trick is that once the engine is running, the car can keep running without the key as long as there is fuel in the tank. If a thief refuels while the engine is running, he can easily drive the stolen vehicle over long distances,” warns ADAC. The experts have tested more than 500 current and older vehicle models for the security gap since 2016 – many are still not sufficiently protected against the attacks.
ADAC warns: Car theft too easy with keyless go
Based on tests and observations for years, the ADAC sees a major problem in the Keyless Go radio technology. Thieves would only need to be in the vicinity of a suitably equipped car with a small, easily concealed device to be able to tap and copy the radio key. A second device can even extend the range of the hacking tools to several hundred meters. Most of the 500 cars tested by ADAC were not protected against such attacks. Just 5 percent defied the attack and were thus safe from this type of theft.
What is also common about keyless-go theft is that the car is not physically broken into, so there are no break-in marks on the vehicle. This can be a problem when it comes to insurance claims.
This is where the car key is stored safely
Some automakers already use ultra-wide band (UWB) technology, in which the car detects the distance between itself and the key. If it’s too high, it won’t unlock or respond. More and more car models are appropriately protected against theft by UWB.
But is it possible to prevent hackers from tapping the code from the keyless go key even apart from UWB? Yes, if the key’s radio contact is disrupted and the signal is contained. To do this, it just needs to be stored appropriately:
- A refrigerator is not only well insulated climatically. It is also very difficult for radio waves from outside to get inside. However, this solution is not practical.
- Aluminum foil also helps against radio waves. If you wrap your key in aluminum foil, you seal it off from the outside world. This trick is probably the best to implement in everyday life.
- A tin can has the same effect, as does a microwave oven.
- the microwave.