Keyless cars provide an easy, breezy lifestyle. Gone are the days of having to insert keys or press key remotes to access and drive vehicles. While this sounds appealing, unfortunately, the keyless system can and is being easily hacked by car thieves.
Let’s get straight into it.
Imagine strolling up to your car with no jingling keys in hand, touching the door handle and voila — your door magically unlocks.
Welcome to the world of keyless cars, where simply having your car key in your pocket or using an app is all you need to gain seamless access to your vehicle.
Most of us still remember the days of having to insert and turn an actual metal car key into a vehicle’s door to unlock it. Sounds pretty old-school when you put it like that, but those days are gone. Today, you can open and start most cars with a key fob, card, or even an app.
Modern vehicles have moved from the conventional, bulky key to a compact, advanced fob. This fob emits a unique signal that the car identifies when nearby and unlocks or locks the doors, giving you hassle-free access to the vehicle and allowing you to start the engine with a simple push of a button and be on your way.
It's convenient, futuristic, and can sometimes feel like magic.
Sometimes magic comes at a cost. While car theft might conjure images of smashed windows and hotwiring, a modern method has emerged: keyless car theft. This sophisticated technique exploits vulnerabilities in keyless entry systems, allowing thieves to steal vehicles without breaking a sweat.
While keyless cars offer convenience, their advanced technology can also make them vulnerable to sophisticated criminals.
Understanding common hacking tactics is crucial to protecting your vehicle and outsmarting criminals who seek to exploit its vulnerabilities.
Criminals use relay devices to amplify and capture the key fob signal, even inside the owner's home.
Imagine a radio tuned to static, not music. That's what jamming does. Thieves use signal jammers to block communication between the key fob and the car, preventing it from locking and leaving the car vulnerable to theft.
While any car with a keyless entry system can be of interest, some are more targeted than others. Factors like the security protocols of the specific system, the complexity of the signal encryption, and the availability of aftermarket equipment for specific manufacturers can influence the risk.
In recent years, carjackings in South Africa have surged, showing an increase of almost 2,000 incidences from the previous year, hitting a peak of nearly 23,000 in 2023, according to Statista. This translates to approximately 63 carjackings per day.
While the reported hijackings prove motorists should be fearful of their keyless vehicles being stolen, the numbers don’t specifically show how many of the cars were keyless entry vehicles.
There has been a surge in keyless car theft since 2022, and slowly but surely, more modern keyless cars are on the road than there are conventional key cars. But besides the vehicle being a keyless car, there are other factors criminals consider before hijacking vehicles.
Other vehicle types that are most at risk are:
High-value vehicle targets:
Additional vulnerability factors:
Hijacking can be a dangerous and traumatic experience for the victims. If your vehicle falls under the factors listed above, there are a few things you can do to make yourself less of a target, according to the SA Police Service (SAPS):
Like any vehicle, keyless cars can’t guarantee 100% security from car thieves, but they are still gaining popularity among motorists. Why? Well, there are several reasons:
No more standing by your vehicle while digging through your pockets and bags for your keys. Keyless cars offer a seamless and secure experience with effortless entry, push-button starts, and remote trunk access. This not only makes life smoother but also ensures added safety, sparing you from vulnerability, especially for those juggling groceries and kids.
With automatic locking and potential alerts if your car moves without the fob, keyless cars provide an added layer of security. All keyless cars have advanced technology that makes them resistant to traditional theft methods like manually jamming the window down with a wire to lift the door locking knob or breaking the door to get inside and sparking the wires to start the car.
Owning a keyless car feels like stepping into the future, with features like remote trunk access and walk-away locking adding a touch of modern ease to everyday driving.
Besides criminals copying the fob and running off with your ride, other aspects can leave your car vulnerable, like a lost or dead fob. This can leave you stranded, unable to lock your vehicle after parking and leave it unprotected if it’s unable to lock. Always have a backup plan or spare fob handy.
Before we dive into the list of security measures you can take to protect your car, let’s quickly look at a vital one you can practise before you even leave your car.
When stepping away, don’t just rely on your vehicle automatically locking behind you, always manually check if your vehicle has locked. If not, lock it manually, then scan the immediate area for anyone hanging around.
Here are other protection methods you can use to protect your vehicles against car theft:
Steering wheel locks: Physical deterrents can prevent theft even if the keyless system is compromised.
Car alarms and tracking devices: Install aftermarket security systems for added protection.
Distance your keys from your car: When at home, keep your car key (and the spare) away from the car, doors, and windows. Another option is to turn off the signal on your key fob. If you don't know whether your key’s signal can switch off or not, search through your vehicle's manual for the answer.
Faraday pouches/signal blockers: Invest in signal-blocking pouches or Faraday cages to prevent your key fob from transmitting a signal when not in use.
Physical barriers: Keep your car keys in a metal tin or aluminium foil to create a barrier that blocks electronic signals.
Consider additional security measures: Install aftermarket alarms, immobilisers, or GPS tracking devices for extra protection.
While traditional methods like alarms and steering wheel locks still have their place in vehicle theft prevention, when it comes to fleets, fleet management solutions and trusted vehicle tracking companies like Cartrack offer a more powerful counterpunch against modern vehicle theft techniques.
At Cartrack, we offer more than vehicle safety solutions for business, we also provide trusted technology that can assist everyday drivers in hijacking events.
When you call us for assistance, here's what to expect:
In the face of rising keyless car theft incidents, Cartrack offers robust solutions to safeguard your vehicle:
Count on Cartrack as your trusted ally, especially in the face of rising keyless car theft concerns. Face keyless car theft worries with these Cartrack solutions.
Whether you own a sleek new ride with keyless entry capabilities or a reliable classic vehicle, Cartrack has your back! Our vehicle monitoring and tracking solutions are tailored to protect your investment, providing a safety net for every journey. Safeguard your vehicle today, contact Cartrack.
The answer to safeguarding your keyless entry car lies within. Discover how to outsmart thieves by learning more about keyless car theft.