How relay attack works
Callous criminals steal vehicles which have key-less entry start via a new, simple, relay attack technique, TRACKER confirmed. Consider how it works. The key-less system – a convenient feature for the owner - eliminates any requirement to manually unlock the doors via the key fob. Handy if it is buried within a shopping bag.
Instead, the car receives a signal from the fob when in close proximity and its doors unlock. The key-less system also encompasses an engine start/stop button. There is, therefore, no requirement to slide a key into an ignition slot which can be tricky in poor light. The button only operates if the fob is close.
Crooks exploit key-less entry without thought for the victim’s mental health, lifestyle and finances. All they require is low cost equipment that is easy to source for those that mix in bad circles.
Imagine a scenario. A car is on a driveway. It is locked. Its fob is in a house out of range. A thief stands close to the house – and closer to the fob - with a device that captures its signal. The signal is sent to a second device an accomplice holds near the car.
This relay attack tricks the car into thinking its legitimate fob is within close proximity. Its door unlock. The criminal then starts the engine via the button and leaves. It is a low risk crime. There is no need to steal the fob from the house, no requirement to break a window on the vehicle and very little noise.
Crooks captured on film
On April 4th 2017 at 2:20am, closed circuit television recorded such a crime. Two men sprinted towards a house. The first stood by its front door. He waved a bag in the air that contained a device. He then successfully received a signal from the key fob within the property. An accomplice opened the car and both men fled the scene.
The anonymous victims slept through the crime, found the car missing the next day then released the footage as a warning to others. They said: “We are extremely concerned our car could be stolen in this way - we see this as a significant security breach.”
How to stop relay attack
German research proved that cars from a wide range of manufacturers are vulnerable. Among others, the testers unlocked and started a large executive saloon plus several small, family class, hatchbacks. A defence is to store the key fob in a faraday pouch that blocks its signal, costs very little and is readily available.