‘It’s alarming’: Criminals can now hack into car key fobs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hackers and criminals are getting more sophisticated. Many are using people’s car key fobs to break into cars.

Do you ever worry about security when getting into your vehicle without a physical key?

One person said they weren’t worried even though hackers are hacking into key fobs.

A team of researchers demonstrated how easy it is and did just that.

The door was locked. They had a computer nearby, and in just a matter of seconds, the car lights went on, and the door opened.

“And I thought, you know what, maybe let’s just try this and let’s try it on my car,” said Rajesh, a junior at the University of Dartmouth. “Next thing you know, with it, it worked.”

Rajesh and his co-researcher, Blake Berry, are IT Security Researchers who’d rather remain incognito.

They weren’t only able to open the car, but they started it as well.

When the pair was asked how easy it was, “Oh, 200%,” Rajesh said. “I mean, an 8-year-old could do it.”

The computer could have been in a car parked nearby at a site capturing the signal being sent out by your fobs, a built-in transmitter, and the car owner could have been in the store not realizing someone broke into their car, according to AAA warnings.

“They’ve come up with a device that would actually amplify your fob signal, so it doesn’t have to be right next to the car, but they can still get into it using your fob signal,” said Shuppe.

“And what they’re trying to do is pick up your codes,” said Michael Chan.

Chan programs backup and replacement fobs at the business he started 20 years ago, Duplicating Keys.

He said later car models with rolling codes on their fobs are safer.

“The pins keep rolling,” he said. “So, it’s hard to duplicate the existing number.”

But it’s not available in older systems like the pre-2021 models Rajesh was testing which many car companies don’t upgrade.

“But they don’t implement this technology anyway, which is kind of alarming,” Rajesh said. “If they did, then what we’re doing essentially wouldn’t work at all.”

So, what can you do when you leave your vehicle parked at a store lot or even at home?

“Or, you know, when you’re at home, keep your keys with those fobs in a metal container because that’s going to prevent the signal from going out or receiving,” Shuppe said. “Or you can invest in one of these RFID pouches.”

The pouches act like a shield and are widely available.

“So, you can get them on Amazon for about like 10, maybe 20 bucks,” Rajesh said. “And that basically prevents anything from going on. I mean, nothing’s electricity security and probably never will.”

Our advice to you - take stuff out of your car and don’t leave it in your vehicle. Even if they fixed it, they’d find another way to get in.

So even if you are a distance away from your car with your key in your purse or pocket, keep an eye on your vehicle because someone could take off with it.