Automotive technology has come a long way from the advent of power steering and automatic locks. With rear-facing cameras, blind spot warnings and Bluetooth capabilities coming standard for most new cars, technology has made automobiles safer.
In many cases, new features are reducing the risk of accidents. In others, they’re reducing the risk of theft. In either case, new technology is blazing trail for insurance discounts.
But as inventive as automakers have grown, those on the other side of the equation – car thieves – are matching them step for step. The latest weapon? Signal boosting.
Keyless entry is a popular feature for new vehicles. This entails using a fob to unlock a car door and a button to start the engine. So while thieves cannot get a hold of keys to enter and start the car, they do have other means of completing their task.
Signal boosting involves intercepting or relaying the fob’s signal, and imbuing it into another device, like a different fob. That fob can then be used to open the car door. Once inside, keyless operation literally makes taking your vehicle as easy as pressing a button.
The functionality of the fob associated with your vehicle is unique to that fob – it’s paired with your car. In other words, it’s the only fob that can open your car. It’s also only capable of opening your car, not any other car.
But this functionality is encrypted much like the signal of wireless internet. As you’ve no doubt noticed before, when you go to log on to your wireless network, there are other nearby networks your devices pick up signals for. With the password, you could easily log on to those networks.
Signal boosting is akin to logging on to a network by bypassing its authentication requirements. Once in, the device that has joined the network can use it unrestricted. Translated to fob entry for a vehicle, this means signal boosting can be used to open your car door.
Like wireless networks, fobs have a working range; the signal may reach 20 metres, but it won’t reach 100 metres. A signal can only be boosting when a device is in range – i.e. close enough to your fob. In order to avoid having your fob’s signal hijacked, it’s best to keep it out of range of would-be thieves.
Keeping your fob on a hook just inside your front door is therefore problematic; thieves can walk up to your porch and easily be in range of the signal. If your fob is at the back of the house, or on the upper floor, it may be out of range. So keeping your fob away from the exterior of your home – especially your driveway is a good precaution to take.