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Ask a car locksmith in Melbourne: are cars with keyless entry easier to steal?

Sales Galmier - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

“I was driving 70mph on the edge of downtown St. Louis when the exploit began to take hold.”

That’s how WIRED writer Andy Greenberg described the experience of having his car infiltrated by computer hackers, and control taken away from him.

Of course, Andy was completely safe, as he had agreed to this experiment and was in touch with the hackers the entire time.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that cars are getting more and more complex by the day, with more and more functions being taken over by computerised functions.

Nowadays, you don’t even need to use a physical key anymore thanks to keyless entry - just walk up, and your car doors will automatically unlock themselves!

It’s made things just that little bit easier... but has it made things safer?

keyless entry auto locksmith melbourne

An auto locksmith in Melbourne explains keyless entry

Like the name suggests, keyless entry doesn’t need any keys. While in the old days this referred to a lock controlled by a PIN pad near the driver’s door, modern technology has made the process even simpler.

Instead of having to enter a code, all you need to do is carry around a keyless entry fob.

This fob single-handedly eliminates the need to use the physical key, or even fumble with a remote - using a short-range remote transmitter, the fob communicates with the car’s inbuilt computer,

Instead, your car’s lock and ignition are controlled by a keyless entry fob that communicates with your car’s in-built computer.

Using RFID (the same technology that powers touch payment and Myki), your car automatically unlocks when it detects the correct fob nearby.

Now for the big question: how safe is keyless entry and ignition?

Introducing SARA

Sara isn’t just a girl’s name that’s rising in popularity - it’s also a technique that some ne'er-do-wells use to break into vehicles with keyless entry systems.

Signal Amplification Relay Attack (SARA for short) essentially works by boosting the signal from your keyless entry fob.

Your keyless entry fob has a short range - only a couple of metres. Using relay devices, SARA boosts this signal and tricks your car into thinking that you’re in range when you actually aren’t.

Here’s how it works:

  1. One person follows you with a relay in their pocket
  2. The relay device picks up your unique entry signal from your fob
  3. This signal is forwarded to a second person with a second receiver near your car
  4. The signal reaches your car, tricking it into unlocking.

The signal boosting technique is surprisingly common, and distressingly easy to implement. There’s no hacking involved, meaning no technical expertise is required - just $20 for a suitable relay device and a willing partner.

Sometimes, they don’t even need that - if you keep your keyless entry fob close to the front entrance, they may be able to boost the signal from inside your home and get into your car that way!

Cloning keyless entry codes

In some cases, getting into a car that uses keyless entry doesn’t even have to use two people - according to some researchers, it’s possible to get in by instantly cloning your keyless entry fob as you walk past!

Researchers found that Tesla vehicles constantly broadcasts the radio ID for their locking systems. Using a specialised device, they were able to pick up this ID, as well as the matching response code emitted by the keyless entry fob.

With these two codes, they were able to develop a program that would determine the vehicle’s unique codes thanks to inadequate encryption.

And all in a matter of seconds!

While Tesla has since taken measures to rectify the issue, and there’s no indication that other car brands are affected, it’s just another thing that’s getting people worried!

car thief keyless entry

Tips to keep your car safe

As car locksmiths in Melbourne, keeping your vehicle safe is our top priority. In addition to providing keys and reprogramming transponders and remotes, our automotive locksmiths can also provide practical, actionable advice.

Do you drive a car that uses keyless entry? Worried about the issues identified above? If so, you’ll want to pay close attention!

Shut off your keyless entry fob

Say you don’t mind taking a couple extra seconds to get into your car. Perhaps you didn’t want keyless entry at all to begin with, and only accepted it because the manufacturer wouldn’t offer any other options.

Did you know? Most car manufacturers allow drivers to disable their keyless entry fobs!

The exact method varies from car to car, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual, or call your dealership for advice on how to disable the system for your particular model.

Buy a blocker pouch

Like the name suggests, these pouches and bags use special materials to block keyless entry fob signals altogether.

Without the fob signal, potential car thieves won’t be able to get into your car - both of the techniques listed above require both the car signal, as well as the fob signal. By blocking the fob, they’ll essentially only have half of the ingredients necessary.

The best part? You can find these on Amazon for less than $20 - even aluminium foil can do the trick in a pinch.

Some manufacturers are even including them with each car they sell!

Use a steering wheel clamp

If you ask our auto locksmiths in Melbourne, this is a good piece of advice regardless of whether or not your car uses keyless entry and ignition!

Your car is one of your most valuable assets. And not just from a financial standpoint, either - how are you supposed to get to work, run errands or continue your routine without your car? Especially if you live in one of Melbourne’s outer suburbs?

Sure, it slows things down - however, it can make your car a much “harder” target for potential thieves!

Keep your fob away from your front door

Again, this is great advice regardless of what sort of locking system your car uses!

According to statistics, a significant amount of car thefts occur because someone got their hands on your keys. By keeping them out of sight and hidden, you make it harder to find your all-important keys.

For owners of cars with keyless entry in particular, it also makes it considerably harder to boost or clone your key fob signal - they only have a limited range, after all!

Key, lock and ignition problems? Our car locksmiths in Melbourne can help!

It doesn’t matter whether your car uses a traditional lock and key, or a keyless entry and ignition system - if you’re stuck, our car locksmiths can help.

Galmier Locksmiths provides a wide range of services for stranded motorists:

Just because your car is keyless, doesn’t mean that there are no keys involved. Most keyless entry systems come with a backup physical key, just in case something happens to the keyless entry system.

These keys are identical to traditional car keys - thanks to this, our car locksmiths in Melbourne can get you back on the road without drama!

Need an auto locksmith in Melbourne who will come to you during your unexpected key emergencies? Call 0407 022 234, or save our number to your contacts list today!