I read a New York Times article today in which the author, Nick Bilton, shared a story about a string of vehicle break-ins that happened in his city over the past month or so that involved no signs of forced entry. Puzzling? Yes.
One such incident occurred to Nick while he was at home, sitting in his home office. It was mid morning when his dog’s ears perked up and began growling at something outside. So Nick walked to his front window that views the street where his Toyota Prius was parked, and locked. What he saw next was absolutely shocking!
Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were beside his Prius on bicycles. The girl pulled out a small, black, box like object from her backpack, pulled on the car handle…and OPENED the door!
Flabbergasted, Nick ran outside scaring the kids away on their bikes, and chased them down the sidewalk hoping to find out what they used to open his car door. Unable to catch the attempted thieves, he began his search on what they could have used to gain entry into his vehicle. What he discovered is shocking and I feel needs to be shared with as many people as possible to spread awareness.
Owners who use keyless entry key fobs to unlock their vehicles are at great risk of vehicle theft.
In Nick’s research, he spoke with a founder of 3db Technologies, Boris Danev. 3db Technologies is a security company based in Switzerland, and Mr. Danev specializes in wireless devices, including key fobs, and has written several research papers on the security flaws of keyless car systems.
Mr. Danev explains that key fobs work in the following way:
In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.
The teenage girl used a device called a “power amplifier.” Mr. Danev knew immediately what had happened to Nick as he was sharing his story and explained that these devices are relatively simple in nature and inexpensive to obtain ($100 or less).
When the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed [Nick’s] car to talk to [his] key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.
Mr. Danev said that until the car manufacturers correct this “bug,” the best way to protect yourself is to literally put your keys in the freezer. This acts as a Faraday Cage, and won’t allow a signal to get in or out.
If you’ve never heard of a Faraday Cage before, Dr. Arthur Bradley, author of Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms, explains it as this:
A faraday cage (a.k.a. Faraday shield) is a sealed enclosure that has an electrically conductive outer layer. It can be in the shape of a box, cylinder, sphere, or any other closed shape. The enclosure itself can be conductive, or it can be made of a non-conductive material (such as cardboard or wood) and then wrapped in a conductive material (such as heavy duty aluminum foil).
Learn how to build a Faraday Cage yourself here.
So when someone says, “I left my keys in the fridge,” don’t think they are losing their mind. They might just know something you don’t.
About the Author: Amber Whitman is the marketing consultant for the Reno Agency.