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Time to rethink keyless entry?
June 12, 2013 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Police are stumped as to how thieves are breaking into cars holding small unknown devices, even when they are caught on video doing it.
posted by mathowie (88 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems the current guess is a signal repeater that is picking up the fob in the house and then echoing it locally.
posted by iamabot at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Our car's been broken into twice in the last six weeks, both times by having a window smashed out. We are not n00bs to city living and don't leave anything visible in the car. (When I park it now, I leave the glove box and center console and coin tray wide open. Sigh.)

Maybe my local car thieves will start using this gadget instead. One can hope.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Would be funny if the door was just unlocked.
posted by iamck at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


fucking time lords and their sonic screwdrivers.
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2013 [60 favorites]


I always wanted keyless entry/ignition in my next new car, and even after reading this I thought well I'll be safe since I garage it, but then I thought about how even at a store or restaurant, chances are a simple signal repeater could bridge the distance between me and my car. Damn.
posted by mathowie at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems the current guess is a signal repeater that is picking up the fob in the house and then echoing it locally.

That would only work if the unlock button on the fob was being pressed.
I can't believe the best the police have to go on is an uneducated guess from a YouTube commenter.
posted by rocket88 at 12:49 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird other than the one it first marked.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:49 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


rocket88:
That would only work if the unlock button on the fob was being pressed.


My car has a button on the handle that will unlock the doors as long as the fob is in proximity. Maybe the device is replicating/repeating that functionality?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Proximity Locks Suck.
posted by iamabot at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I solved my car break in problems by becoming a cyclist.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do all the cars broken into have proximity locks?
posted by zeoslap at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2013


That would only work if the unlock button on the fob was being pressed.


I'm sorry, what ?
posted by iamabot at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obscure Reference: Yeah, because [Sarcasm]stealing a bike is hard[/Sarcasm].
posted by el io at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


In this episode of cops suck at Let Me Google That For You.

A presentation from 2011 entitled 'Relay Attacks on Passive Keyless Entry and Start Systems in Modern Cars'

posted by iamabot at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


The box contains a tiny wizard who casts Knock when you tap on the lid.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [27 favorites]


iamabot: Proximity Locks Suck.

Heh. I have a Veloster, the car specifically called out in that article. It's definitely required some new thought processes and organizational schemes, but in the end, it is very handy to just leave my keys in my bag all day and never have to think about them. The thing I have the hardest time to remember is getting them out of my bag before I get out of the car if I am running an errand that does not require my bag. The car does beep angrily if you try to lock the doors with the key still inside (or if you try to get out of the car with the key while it is running).

Oh, and pushing a button to start the car is cool as shit.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You leave your bag in the car? /boggles
posted by rtha at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Proximity Locks Suck.

I like mine. It's convenient not to have to dig your keys out of your pocket, and I actually don't find myself running into the "lots of auto journalists are frequently swapping similar cars" problem all that often, personally.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh, if only we could go back to the days before car keys metastasized to the scale and awkwardness of cricket bats, because some of us don't need the thrill of being able to magically open the door from several feet away, don't want to pay two hundred bucks for a lost key, and don't want to ruin the line of our trousers with a suspicious lump unless we are, in fact, happy to see you.

The nicest thing about my gigantic gas swilling truck is that the key is a small flat metal thing from another era, and if someone wants to steal my gigantic gas swilling truck, they're going to have to use a coathanger like in the good ol' days.

The world of the future, I suppose.
posted by sonascope at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2013 [24 favorites]


Do all the cars broken into have proximity locks?

Doesn't really explain why it's the passenger side door. It would seem someone knows something about some technical detail that can be exploited.
posted by three blind mice at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously my car is cheap and outdated, which appears to be a good thing.
Seriously...a system to allow access and start to your car without the inconvenience of fishing your key out of your pocket? Ho fucking lazy have we gotten?
posted by rocket88 at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't really explain why it's the passenger side door. It would seem someone knows something about some technical detail that can be exploited.


Best guess, driver side door chimes when proximity to key detected and door is open and no seatbelt is fastened ?
posted by iamabot at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do all the cars broken into have proximity locks?

Still, the proximity key signals would have to be picked up in the first place, right? How would it reach the repeater? What am I missing?
posted by asra at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2013


Thinking out loud, making some assumptions about how keyless-entry fobs work:
  1. Thief walks up to car, presses "unlock" button on car door handle, generating an "interrogation" signal.
  2. Small device in Mode A records interrogation signal, then rebroadcasts it at much higher power.
  3. Small device listens for faint answering signal from the fob up in the house and records it.
  4. Thief switches device to Mode B.
  5. Thief presses unlock button on the door again. Small device responds to interrogation signal with the reply from the fob; doors unlock.
Questions:
  1. Is the interrogation signal peculiar to a particular car/fob pair? If I loudly broadcast it to a whole neighborhood, do I have to sort through a dozen responses, or am I guaranteed only to receive one response?
  2. Is the interrogation signal identical every time the unlock button is pressed? It really ought to do something like broadcast a random number and only unlock the door if the reply is that number encrypted with the right key.
posted by The Tensor at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


SIGNAL REPEATER? puleeze. Any decent remote entry system uses rolling codes or a challenge/response scheme where the one is derived from the other. Fobs don't emit the same signal with each press.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best guess, driver side door chimes when proximity to key detected and door is open and no seatbelt is fastened ?

Yea, but most of the proximity key cars I've seen seem to only unlock the drivers door. If you want the other ones unlocked you have to push the button, or open the door and push the unlock button there. I'm guessing this is some kind of weird exploit against other sensors like this.
posted by emptythought at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could be a crash sensor unlocking the doors I guess, but I thought those also triggered the hazards.
posted by iamabot at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2013


Yes, but you assume that these cars use decent remote entry systems.

Time and time again, we've seen things like this be complete security through obscurity, and the people who take the meagre time required to actually break them dealt with through harsh legal remedies, as if that fixes the fact that there's now hundreds of thousands of cars that are now trivial to break into with $5 of electronics.
posted by Imperfect at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fobs don't emit the same signal with each press.

Correct, but I'm on about something different than interactive unlocking of doors via the keyfob.
posted by iamabot at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2013


My car has a button on the handle that will unlock the doors as long as the fob is in proximity. Maybe the device is replicating/repeating that functionality?

Yeah, this seems pretty obviously what's going on. The keys aren't actively charged by a plate, like RFID, they have their own internal power sources. The device probably just boosts the signal from the car and the key so they both "see" each other as nearby.
posted by odinsdream at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason rolling codes aren't involved would be because they're using the real key, just without having to carry it out of the building where it's sitting on a table somewhere very close. This wouldn't work for random cars.
posted by odinsdream at 1:16 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously...a system to allow access and start to your car without the inconvenience of fishing your key out of your pocket? Ho fucking lazy have we gotten?

You realize that you can apply this terrible, terrible logic to pretty much any small advance in tech over the past hundred years right? Or do you honestly feel that using a remote to turn your TV on, open your garage door, having a mechanism to stop your coffee pot from making a mess when you take the pot out... about a million other things... are all great but this one thing is "fucking lazy"?
posted by Cosine at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


Makes me think of this guy who got a deal on Shark Tank, for tech that lets you open locks with your mobile phone. I thought then, and still think now: There's no way in hell I would have one of those locks.
posted by jbickers at 1:18 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could thieves stroll around and collect (record) signals from keys in the neighborhood and then go try them all (automatically) on cars parked nearby? Or does there have to be simultaneous contact with the key and the lock?
posted by pracowity at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2013


Doesn't really explain why it's the passenger side door. It would seem someone knows something about some technical detail that can be exploited.

Perhaps simple convenience. Passenger proximity unlock usually causes all the other doors to unlock at the same time, whereas driver side only opens the one door.
posted by odinsdream at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2013


It's the passenger side because the glove box is on that side, and it's easier to lean in and rifle through the ashtray and the console when you don't have the steering wheel in the way.
posted by KathrynT at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Could thieves stroll around and collect (record) signals from keys in the neighborhood and then go try them all (automatically) on cars parked nearby? Or does there have to be simultaneous contact with the key and the lock?

No, there are built in protections across this. Now whether those protections have failed, it's hard to say but generally the signals are tied to a time stamp that is encoded/encrypted in the communications channel. Too much drift from that time stamp, no workie.
posted by iamabot at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2013


are all great but this one thing is "fucking lazy"?

I think one of the big drawbacks to remote entry/keyless start as opposed, to say, a remote control for the TV is that there's no backup if it breaks. Even brand new TVs still have buttons on them to at least turn them on and off and change the channel, but if your key fob breaks you can't start the car. I'm driving my father's Prius for the week and it doesn't have a backup physical key as far as I can tell - no fob, no drive.

After having driven his car for a few days, it seems to me that this feature is really marketing-driven human factors design. Granted, I'm a guy and I don't carry much in my pockets (so I'm not usually fishing for keys in my bag or anything like that), so having the keyless start doesn't really solve any problems for me.

From a human engineering perspective, I feel like (akin to what the Jalopnik article mentions) there's now a big disconnect that occurs in the act of starting the car and driving away. With a physical key there is this tactile reminder that Something Is Happening. Put the key in, look around for hazards, turn the key, check the gauges. Without the key, I have been feeling like the weight of what I am about to start doing (hauling thousands of pounds of steel and plastic around with enough kinetic energy to seriously fuck up the soft squishy things walking around outside) is minimized in that I can just open the door, plop butt in seat, and essentially press the gas and go. The deliberate slow-down, the stop-and-think, has been removed.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fobs don't emit the same signal with each press.

If the repeater can hear the signal and the car/key can't, the repeater *can* replay the signal and it'll be valid, because the car hasn't heard it (and thus, hasn't rolled the code.)

Even with challenger/response, a repeater can work if the two endpoints can't hear each other directly -- they make one send (which is repeated to bridge the gap) and hear one request/reponse, which is also repeated.

The defense against this is for the car to invalidate the response if it hears its own challenge again, since if the repeater can hear the car and then reach the key far away, anything the repeater transmits can be heard by the car.

The evil version would, if it hear its own challenge replayed, then broadcast a signal at, oh, 100W ERP, and watch the front end of the repeater die, since it would be getting a signal some five orders of magnitude stronger than the one they were expecting. Note: The FCC would dislike this. It might also fry your key if it was close. So, yeah, bad idea.
posted by eriko at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slides (PDF) from the Swiss Cyber Storm talk linked above.
SIGNAL REPEATER? puleeze. Any decent remote entry system uses rolling codes or a challenge/response scheme where the one is derived from the other. Fobs don't emit the same signal with each press.
We're talking about a repeater in the radio comms sense. It doesn't record a signal and then repeat it later; it receives a signal in from one location and then retransmits it at a different location but at the same time. So it depends on being in range of both the keyfob and the car simultaneously.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My eight year old Prius has this feature, and it's worked so well that I'm surprised all new cars don't have it by now. It really gives the illusion that there is no key, and my car just knows who I am, to the extent of even turning the interior lights on as I walk up to it.

backseatpilot -- the Prius does have a backup to the proximity system. There are the keyfob buttons, and there is also a physical key inside the fob that you can pull out and use to unlock the door. Once inside the car you can slide the fob into a slot on the dashboard and drive the car, even if the fob has no battery.
posted by w0mbat at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The defense against this is for the car to invalidate the response if it hears its own challenge again, since if the repeater can hear the car and then reach the key far away, anything the repeater transmits can be heard by the car.

The ETH researchers described a relay that used a separate receiver and transmitter, with a physical cable or a rebroadcast on a different frequency to cover most of the car-to-key distance. So this defense might not work against that attack, though it would make the attack less convenient (the attacker needs to place two devices instead of just one).
posted by mbrubeck at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2013


don't want to pay two hundred bucks for a lost key,

My last replacement key cost me $500, because Toyota had to replace the entire computer in my car. If there hadn't been a recall in place, it would have been even more. This is in a seven-year-old car. So ridiculous.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2013


I'm planning on making an RFID-proof wallet when the new transit cards come into play here in my city, as blocking the frequencies with tin foil is known to work. In that vein, wouldn't making an RFID Shielding Pouch for your keys be the solution? It'd cost less then $20 and would work with your credit cards, passports, etc. as well so no one'd be able to remote-scan the chip in your credit card.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think one of the big drawbacks to remote entry/keyless start as opposed, to say, a remote control for the TV is that there's no backup if it breaks.

I don't know every system out there but I am a bit of a car guy and I don't know a single system that doesn't have a backup system, usually a physical key.
posted by Cosine at 1:40 PM on June 12, 2013


I don't know every system out there but I am a bit of a car guy and I don't know a single system that doesn't have a backup system, usually a physical key.

Ours (a 2011 Hyundai Sonata) has a physical backup for opening the car but not for starting it. The only way to start the car is with the fob & dashboard button.
posted by jedicus at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2013


I'm making a special RFID-proof cap to wear.
posted by mecran01 at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Long Beach police are "desperate". Folks, they're desperate. Out of their fucking minds to solve this mystery.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


jedicus: Ours (a 2011 Hyundai Sonata) has a physical backup for opening the car but not for starting it. The only way to start the car is with the fob & dashboard button.

My Hyundai Owner's Manual says that even if the battery in the fob fails, push the button with the fob and it will still work.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long Beach police department: is it really that hard to understand thieves are opening the passenger door so that they can sack the glove box and run away faster than if they're behind the wheel...and because if they're caught behind the wheel a case can be made for attempted grand theft auto charges instead of just burglary? That's been the case for as long as I can remember, amongst my schoolmates who broke into cars.
posted by davejay at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


My Hyundai Owner's Manual says that even if the battery in the fob fails, push the button with the fob and it will still work.

Right. Battery is needed for proximity stuff, but the FOB has an RFID chip that doesn't need to be powered in the fob to work.
posted by davejay at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good thing I drive a crappy car, then.
posted by zardoz at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2013


as blocking the frequencies with tin foil is known to work

Yes, but by whom?
posted by Rash at 2:25 PM on June 12, 2013


So have we all agreed that it's reptoids stealing these cars?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2013


as blocking the frequencies with tin foil is known to work

However, the fluoride you ingest amplifies them.
posted by iamabot at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2013


This is WAY more preferable to the old days, when they'd just let themselves into your car via a cinder block.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:38 PM on June 12, 2013


I'm planning on making an RFID-proof wallet when the new transit cards come into play here in my city, as blocking the frequencies with tin foil is known to work. In that vein, wouldn't making an RFID Shielding Pouch for your keys be the solution? It'd cost less then $20 and would work with your credit cards, passports, etc. as well so no one'd be able to remote-scan the chip in your credit card.

I'd be willing to bet that someone could set up a profitable business in the next few years selling stylish, normal looking wallets that had this shielding integrated in to them. Similar in concept to the bulletproof jackets that just look like normal windbreakers and other things along those lines, but with a much larger potential market.. No "RFID safe!" logos or anything. Just completely normal looking.

Similarly would be jackets with shielded pockets, and purses with the shielding integrated(or even replacements or snap-in liners for those little zippered coin/key pouches in purses).

People will start caring about this stuff. I've always thought that none of this stuff should be fully automatic, or at least you should be able to set it in a non-automatic mode. For example if these keys would only work if they did something like.. detect movement(like they were in the pocket of a person walking), or a hand touched anywhere on their surface. Or paypass/RFID cards that only worked if you pushed a small pressure sensitive switch on the front or had them actively held in your hand detected by some kind of capacitive sensor.

It freaked my friend out when i was going to drive his car, but he had the keys. Since he had walked by a minute earlier the door had unlocked and i got in the drivers seat. When he sat down in the passenger seat i started the engine and he seriously WTFd even after realizing the key was in his pocket. Shouldn't there be some kind of user interaction there?
posted by emptythought at 2:50 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're on the passenger side because the front door of the house is on the driver's side, and they would prefer not to be seen.
posted by designbot at 2:58 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've had this happen twice in Providence, two makes of cars... they leave the door open so the sound of a car door closing doesn't alert anyone inside the apartment (in that part of Providence, apartments are in old wooden "triple decker" houses with a small parking lot out back.) The first time was in '09, the second in '11 - yes, I am positive the doors were locked when I left. The first time they got a Nintendo DS game cartridge in the glovebox, the second time they boosted a 110v adapter I left in the glovebox, probably because it was a white rectangle that could be mistaken for an iThing by someone working quick.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe the unlock switch is poorly shielded and the right radio signal will cause it to go.
posted by humanfont at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2013


mecran01: "I'm making a special RFID-proof cap to wear."

And I've made an RFID-proof jock. My junk is safely private, but the damn thing chafes to all hell and I get a lot of looks at the crumpling noise when I sit down or go to the can...
posted by Samizdata at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2013


I guess I'm glad I park the car in the garage now. (Also, I know how to get into the car if the fob dies, but I have no idea how to start the car. Things to ask the dealer #723.)
posted by immlass at 3:17 PM on June 12, 2013


Seriously...a system to allow access and start to your car without the inconvenience of fishing your key out of your pocket? Ho fucking lazy have we gotten?

You realize that you can apply this terrible, terrible logic to pretty much any small advance in tech over the past hundred years right? Or do you honestly feel that using a remote to turn your TV on, open your garage door, having a mechanism to stop your coffee pot from making a mess when you take the pot out... about a million other things... are all great but this one thing is "fucking lazy"?


I still use a plain ol' key on the Ford, and I'll be hung if I'll replace the expensive electronic gizmo for the Nissan when the fob dies. The key works fine without it.

Sorry, most Americans would benefit from getting off the couch to turn on the TV, our parents used to be able to open garage doors without a remote, my coffee pot doesn't make a mess because it has a little spring.... Actually, the world would still hum along just fine, and there would be less pollution, if we all had fewer modern 'conveniences.'
posted by BlueHorse at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2013


With a $30 DVB-T USB dongle and some free Software Defined Radio software you can capture and reverse engineer pretty much any RF-based signal. It wouldn't take much to reverse engineer common protocols and just iterate through the combinations until something clicked.
posted by tommasz at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


arcticwoman wrote: My last replacement key cost me $500, because Toyota had to replace the entire computer in my car. If there hadn't been a recall in place, it would have been even more. This is in a seven-year-old car. So ridiculous.

I'm sorry your dealer ripped you off. A Toyota dealer can program a new key even if you lose all the existing keys, at least on any Toyota made since 2003 or so.
posted by wierdo at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2013


I'd be willing to bet that someone could set up a profitable business in the next few years selling stylish, normal looking wallets that had this shielding integrated in to them

Yep
posted by Cosine at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2013


This whole thread also reminded me of a fairly funny story. My only car, which i don't drive daily is a 1966 plymouth. The passenger side door lock has been broken since the late 70s and no one remembers why. The drivers door lock was perfect... until some new generation teched out car thief decided they wanted to break in to it.

Whoever this doofus was obviously spent a lot of time trying to unlock the door. There's scratches all around the key slot on the door, the key slot is bent up, and the area where the rubber seal formerly was at the bottom edge of the window is all chewed up. The guy never got in, and the only end result besides some scratching and tiny damage is the fact that the doors a bit hard to unlock now.

Meanwhile, my partners 2000s nissan parked right next to it was broken into(probably by the same guy) who rifled through the whole thing and left the doors hanging open in the rain. The guy got in to it through some method like this article, because there was absolutely no evidence of any kind of forced entry(despite the car being locked, and the immobilizer/alarm being armed) and the alarm never went off.

I was rather smug and amused about this at the time. Caveman technology beat the computerized stuff for once. Especially since the cops once warned me that my car was a "theft risk" because the security on it was so primitive or something.(I'd also add that wasn't the only time someones tried to break in to that car while i've owned it. No one has ever succeeded)
posted by emptythought at 5:33 PM on June 12, 2013


Odd that neither vehicle in the video acknowledged via exterior lights an unlock signal. The dome light didn't look to come on until the handle was raised post-unlock.
posted by bz at 6:08 PM on June 12, 2013


Odd that neither vehicle in the video acknowledged via exterior lights an unlock signal. The dome light didn't look to come on until the handle was raised post-unlock.

Exactly. It just looks like the cars were unlocked to begin with. Possible reasons for this might include:

1. Sheer idiocy
2. Radio signal jammed during remote locking
3. Owners stole their own valuables from their own cars to use the video footage in an insurance scam
posted by Sys Rq at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


KathrynT: "it's easier to lean in and rifle through the ashtray and the console when you don't have the steering wheel in the way."

Wait, why would you want to rifle through someone's ashtray?
posted by Bugbread at 6:28 PM on June 12, 2013


3. Owners stole their own valuables from their own cars to use the video footage in an insurance scam

This seems pretty likely to me over mysterious technology the cops have never seen.
posted by winna at 6:29 PM on June 12, 2013


Those security keys (the non remote ones) that cost a hundred plus dollars really piss me off. It's such a locked in dealer rip off considering the material and manufacturing costs are probably less than $3.

Bugbread: "Wait, why would you want to rifle through someone's ashtray?"

Non smokers store change there and at least in Canada it can really add up in a hurry.
posted by Mitheral at 6:38 PM on June 12, 2013


Those security keys (the non remote ones) that cost a hundred plus dollars really piss me off. It's such a locked in dealer rip off considering the material and manufacturing costs are probably less than $3.

FWIW, we've used streetkeys.com in the past for additional/replacement security keys, although it looks like they've since been aquired/merged into keylessride.com which who I don't have any experience.

On our Fords it was easy to add an extra chipped key if you have 2 existing chipped keys -- there's a secret timed dance of "insert old keys, insert new keys" that the car's computer can recognize to bless new keys. Harder if you only have 1 existing key: needs a locksmith to "activate" the key which I think mostly involved plugging a gadget into the ODB port.

Somewhat more hassle than the dealership (they ship blanks which you have to get cut yourself) but considerably cheaper.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:58 PM on June 12, 2013


Odd that neither vehicle in the video acknowledged via exterior lights an unlock signal. The dome light didn't look to come on until the handle was raised post-unlock.

My partners newer nissan has an option of unlocking or locking it without the horn, and also without the lights except i think when locking(IE: at the minimum notification setting, the lights only flash when it locks. Not when unlocking or doing anything else except actually sounding the alarm).

They may be sending a signal that unlocks without flashing the lights. This definitely doesn't mean the car is unlocked at first, as i've noticed most newer cars let you do some weird button-pressing combo to edit the settings for how the alarm system notifies you.

It's definitely just as plausible to me that these thieves are smart enough to send the "Set alarm status to mode 3" type of signal before the "Unlock all doors" one, if they do have what's essentially a home made car alarm phreaking box.

Whoever is making these things has an intimate knowledge of the alarm systems, i'm sure.

I also think the jamming the lock signal thing is plausible, but wouldn't people notice their car didn't flash/honk? And why would they be pulling out that box to unlock it?(or perhaps, does that only fake a key to authorize the car to start? hmm...)
posted by emptythought at 7:12 PM on June 12, 2013


I would think if these things were common it would be pretty easy to buy one, for the right person, eh? They'd be relatively common knowledge.

Also, are none of the cars themselves valuable? It would seem to me that is this tech let you drive off with the machine, too, there wouldn't be a late model accord on the road and lots of mysteriously inexpensive used parts on ebay.
posted by maxwelton at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I blame this guy.
posted by homunculus at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Protect yourself thusly:

1. Get a shitty car. In my experience, a '97 Tercel with rust stains (as if there was any other kind) works wonders.

2. Fill it with garbage: crumbled bags, fast food detritus, newspapers, obviously damaged books, soiled clothing, etc.

Now you're all set. No one will break into your car. Even heroin addicts will be looking around for a Wet Wipe after so much as touching the handle.
posted by Fnarf at 11:38 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fnarf, personal experience tells me that your shit will still get rifled through on occasion, but maybe that's just because I also left the doors unlocked.
posted by wierdo at 12:14 AM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, just checked - my Kia's dome light doesn't come on after a single button press, but the parking lights flash once and both front doors unlock. You need two button presses to unlock the rear doors and the hatch - still no dome light.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:46 AM on June 13, 2013


The Automobile Association says:
The number of cars stolen every year has been falling steadily since the early 1990s peak when 700,000 cars were stolen in a single year... It's almost impossible to steal a modern car without first obtaining the keys.“ Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre recently reported that 70% of cars that are taken are stolen using the key.
Modern car key fobs may be making us lazy and morally degenerate, but in general they're not making our cars easier to steal.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the ashtray is where I keep loose change and an emergency $20, and a dental floss pick, and a hair tie. I just leave my car unlocked now, the cost of fixing it after someone breaks in is much higher than the value of whatever they take in the first place.
posted by KathrynT at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2013


Wait, why would you want to rifle through someone's ashtray?

I had my ashtray stolen in the past. I assume they took it out to get to the head unit, and for some reason kept the ashtray.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:09 AM on June 13, 2013


Heh. I had to call a locksmith on Monday, and we got to chatting about car locks and CNC machines (did you know they use CNC mills to cut keys for most car locks?). He was using a device to reprogram a keyfob, having re-cut the physical key in about 12 seconds already. While we were waiting, we started chatting about car security systems, and I asked what the hardest security system was.

The hardest kind of car key was for Mitsubishi or some other brand, he said, and required a procedure in which you take off the dashboard, find the microprocessor, unsolder it, and probe it in some sort of reverse-engineering process. "Unsoldering/soldering it is a bitch", he said, "but after that it takes about half an hour. Maybe 12 minutes, if you have a good device. But most people just order another key from the dealership."

"So why would you ever go to the trouble of doing that?" I asked, stupidly.

"You know, if the owner has misplaced their ownership papers, if you know what I mean", he said, and winked.

Ah. Right. "And what about keyless systems? Is that harder?"

"Oh no, very easy. It only takes a few seconds. You don't even have to be in the car to make a new key", he said, and winked again.
posted by suedehead at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2013


It's almost impossible to steal a modern car without first obtaining the keys.“ Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre recently reported that 70% of cars that are taken are stolen using the key.

Maybe it's just lazy writing by the AA, but to me 30% does not really sound like "almost impossible".
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:39 AM on June 13, 2013


Fnarf, personal experience tells me that your shit will still get rifled through on occasion, but maybe that's just because I also left the doors unlocked.

Yeah, same here (and nice to see I'm not the only one with that "security system"), but it didn't happen often, no one ever took my cassette tapes, and most importantly my windows stopped getting broken. My only real concern at that point was that I might find some random person sleeping in it.

It doesn't stop stupidity, though. My relatively ratty ride was parked in the back with a flat tire and a dead battery and I still had someone come in and jam a screwdriver in the ignition. I mean, I don't expect them to test the battery, but why would someone try to steal a car with a flat tire?
posted by nTeleKy at 11:44 AM on June 13, 2013


Maybe it's just lazy writing by the AA, but to me 30% does not really sound like "almost impossible"

Presumably most of the 30% are not new.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2013


2. Radio signal jammed during remote locking

Holmes: Occam's dictates that the vehicles were never ... actually ... locked. Therefore we can deduce that if the owners of the car thought they locked them ... the thieves had some sort of method to prevent this.

Watson: An RF jammer?

Holmes: Precisely! After carefully opening the passenger side door to prevent the seat belt chime and allow easier access to the glovebox ... it was then trivial to make away with whatever goods ... were inside.

Watson: Your Tim Russ CD.

Holmes: *A* Tim Russ CD. Among other things.
posted by chemoboy at 3:39 PM on June 13, 2013


I have a Nissan with a passive keyless entry system, and most of the time I adore it. However, last summer I experienced the major downsides of the system.

We were at a 4-day music festival, and when we parked the car for the weekend I managed to leave the electrical system on - no lights, radio, or A/C, but the 'key' was turned 1 notch, so the system was on and power being drained. The car does beep if it's not fully off when the key is removed from the car, but that had happened earlier during the unpacking process, and it only beeps for about 15 sec, so we were able to go off with the key and not realize the car was still not entirely off. Keyless system issue #1.

At the end of the festival, the car was (surprise!) dead. My husband and I were back and forth tag-teaming the packing/load-out process and working to try to get a jump start for the car. But we forgot that the key was in his pocket... and didn't realize that the anti-theft system on the car will lock the system entirely and de-authorize all keys if there are a certain number of attempts to start the car without the key in proximity. Keyless system issue #2.

That required a $500 tow to the nearest Nissan dealership, as they could/would not give the local mechanic shop the codes to unlock the system. 3 additional days in Chico later waiting for the dealership to get things taken care of (thank goodness for understanding workplaces!), with attendant hotel and food costs along with the repair bill, and we had a functioning car and key once again, as well as a very expensive lesson on the workings of the keyless entry system.
posted by polymath at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2013


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