Can your car keys get hacked?

In today’s digital age, the convenience of keyless car entry systems comes with its own set of vulnerabilities. As cars become smarter, so do the thieves. Gone are the days when stealing a car required physical force or a crowbar. Now, with advanced hacking techniques, car thieves can potentially unlock and drive away with your vehicle without even breaking a sweat. But can your car keys really get hacked? The answer is yes. Here’s how it happens and what you can do to protect yourself.

How do car key hacks work?

Modern cars often come with keyless entry systems, which use a radio frequency (RF) signal to communicate with the car. Hackers can exploit this system using various techniques:

Relay attack

Thieves use two devices. One is placed near your key fob to capture the RF signal, and the other near your car to relay this signal, effectively fooling your car into thinking the key is nearby.

Signal jamming

By blocking the signal between your key fob and your car, thieves can prevent you from locking your car in the first place, leaving it vulnerable.

Key cloning

With the right equipment, hackers can capture and duplicate the signal from your key fob, creating a clone that can unlock and start your car.

Steps to protect your car keys and vehicle

While the idea of your car keys being hacked can be alarming, there are several measures you can take to safeguard your vehicle:

1. Use a Faraday pouch

A Faraday pouch is a small, lined bag that blocks RF signals. By placing your key fob in one of these pouches, you can prevent thieves from capturing its signal. This is especially useful at home or when you’re not using your car for extended periods.

2. Disable keyless entry

If you don’t use the keyless entry feature often, consider disabling it. Consult your car’s manual or contact the manufacturer for instructions on how to turn off this feature. This eliminates the possibility of remote hacks.

3. Keep your key fob safe

Avoid leaving your key fob near doors or windows where its signal can be easily intercepted. Store it in a secure, central location within your home. This minimises the chances of a relay attack.

4. Regularly update your car’s software

Manufacturers often release software updates to fix vulnerabilities. Ensure your car’s software is up-to-date by regularly checking for updates and installing them promptly.

5. Use physical barriers

While high-tech solutions are crucial, old-school methods like steering wheel locks, wheel clamps, or parking in a locked garage can deter thieves. Physical barriers add an extra layer of protection.

6. Be vigilant

Pay attention to your surroundings when locking your car. If you notice anyone suspicious lingering near you or your car, be cautious and consider moving to a different location.

7. Install a tracking system

Invest in a GPS tracking system for your vehicle. In the unfortunate event that your car is stolen, a tracking system increases the likelihood of recovering your vehicle.

8. Consider aftermarket security devices

There are various aftermarket security devices designed to protect your car from theft. These include immobilisers, alarm systems, and advanced anti-theft systems that can help secure your vehicle.