L et’s shop for a new vehicle !
This story begins when I stopped at a local Honda dealer to check out their new SUVs. The sales person (Louis) jumped right in, eager to help me buy a vehicle. After some chitchat, I asked Louis if there was a model of Honda which DID NOT come with a key fob. A fob is a little device which is attached to your key chain and allow you to unlock, enter and start the vehicle without a key. That’s the new thing these days and approximately 70% of all new cars sold in North-America comes equipped with a keyless device.
So, Louis informs me that all their new Honda models come with a Fob and began telling me how convenient they are. I asked Louis if they were absolutely secure against theft. That’s where the problem begins. Car dealers falsely promote the benefits of using key fobs (Also called keyless access or Proximity remote access), without informing the potential customer of the risks. And there are many risks.
How do key fobs fail
A keyless access device fails in its design. It constantly transmits a signal telling your vehicle that it is in proximity and allows you to simply grab the door handle and unlock the vehicle. Then, the proximity of the fob allows you to press the “Start” button, which will start the engine and you are ready to drive away. These days, a Fob has a grange of uptown 300 feet.
Potentially, someone could just watch up to your car, unlock it and start the engine without your knowledge. But they would get very far as the Fob is left behind. So how does a professional thief resolve this ? They intercept you fob signal, clone it and then exploit the captured signal to fool your vehicule into thinking the vehicule owner’s fob is within proximity.
Cloning your fob
Organized crime often send a scout, someone who drives around and targets potential vehicle to steel. They often do this around residential areas where the vehicle os parked most of the time. Once locating a targeted vehicle in mind, the scout will walk around the residence with a listening device, trying to detect and record your fob’s signals. If they successfully record such a signal, they take note of the location of the vehicle, address, type, model…etc, and just walk away. These scouts build a list of potential targets (Inventory), know its location and have recored the fob’s signal. They essentially built an inventory.
Upon the need for a certain type of car model, the thief lookup their list and send a crew with a clone of the fob, walk up to your vehicle, unlocks it, start the engine and drive away. They have a clone of your fob in their pockets, so they are good to god. To take extra precautions, they might drive your car to a close location and abandon for a certain period of time. This is to test if your car is equipped with a lowjack , GPS or other type of locating device. If after a week or so, the car is still there, another crew is sent to pickup the car and drive it to its final location where is is put in container and shipped overseas or chopped for parts.
How to prevent fobs from getting cloned
Fobs transmit radio signals over frequencies which can be intercepted if the intercepter is within range. You can block the transmitting abilities of your fob by placing it in a Faraday-Cage.
This cage can take for of a pouch or a box, which has conductive mesh lining which will block the fob signal and make its signal incapable of leaving the cage. If the signal can’t be pickup by nearby thief, they can’t clone your fob for later retrieval.
This video is the story of a gentleman who got his pickup truck stolen once and leaned how to defend himself against futur theft. It pick this video because it has all the right arguments, demonstration and provides solutions which can be applied to virtual every make and models of cars today.
A good Faraday-Cage cost anywhere between $10 and $50 and will protect your vehicle against this kid of the. Only in the city fo Toron, Canada, over 1300 cars got stolen in 2021 using fob cloning and that number is up 50% from the previous year. This shows that this industry is in full growth and insurance companies are not providing prevention measure, nor do the car manufacturers. The Honda sales guy I talked to didn’t mention anything about using a Faraday-Cage. I suggested to him that they should provide a couple Faraday-Device to their customer as a promotional token for each purchased cars. The sales guy replied that it would doing this would be an admittence that the Fob security is weak and would lower their car overall sales since they are the ones selling a customer a new vehicle when it is stolen. Point taken.
Insurance companies keep replacing expensive cars
Anyone working in the car insurance business knows about the weakness of keyless access devices and they are NOT in a hurry to do anything about it too. They just prefer to hike their polices in affected areas and make everyone living in that area pay for it all. It’s good business for them and possibly increases their profit margins too.
Insurance companies could easily lobby the car industry to improve on the fob design, or at the very lease, someone should provide the end user with a some sort of Faraday Cage. The economy of scale would be ridiculously cheap to provide anyone which purchases insurance for a new vehicle with a Faraday cage of some sort, or at the very least, make the customer sign an explicit form which lets them know the risk factors associated with owning a cars with a fob, and provide solutions.
Insurance companies and car manufacturs have incentives to NOT admit of security weakness with their products. Potential liability and subsequent group lawsuits could be very expensive and with the rules of actuary tables, they always choose the cheaper economical path and lower risk approach, regardeless of is their decision would better our society or not.
Protect your vehicule for less than $20
If you own an expensive vehicule or are about to purchase one, and specially if it is equipped with a keyless access fob, you absolutely need to purchase a Faraday cage to place the fob in its cage when your vehicule is parked. GP Outdoors have a video demonstrated how a Faraday cage is and why you should get one.
When I shopped and purchased my vehicule, I made it clear I didn’t want keyless access and fortunately, there was a model with a “Push Button” access which didnd’t transmit any signals unless I pressed a button on the phycal key. So, there is no need for any Faraday cage protection. Maybe old cars are much better than new ones afterall.
You MUST purchase a Faraday cage for you vehicule. If you don’t care about doing doing this and assume insurance companies will just buy you a new car, then don’t be surprise if your insurance premiums go sky-high the year following a report of a stolen vehicule. Does this get your attention now? Faraday Cage come is a pouch format for less than $20, or a nicer box format to place multi key chain for about $50. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Vehicule theft has increased 50%-75% in 2022.
Warnings: Only puchase Faraday cages from reputable resellers. There are many “fake” products out there which are just fablic, pretenting to be have Faraday cage capabilities. If the price seems too good to be true, it’s probably a fake. Also, test he product once you purchase it. It should block 100% of your fob’s signal at all time. Until you purchase a Faraday Cage, you can simulate one by wrapping your key fob in multiple layers of aluminium foil. Also, it’s myth that putting your keuy fobs or key chain in a microwape will act as a Faraday cage. Just don’t make that mistake!