Engine immobilisers can be an excellent deterrent against car theft and have significantly decreased crime across the nation. Unfortunately, however, thieves have found ways to bypass these anti-theft devices.
Thieves can gain entry to your car by listening in on signals between your key fob and car and disabling it with just a few simple steps. In this article we’ll look at how thieves do this.
Table of Contents
1. Theft of a key
As car brands invest in smarter tech systems for their vehicles, thieves have found ways to get around them. Car theft rates initially fell after immobilisers came out, but that trend reversed around 2010. As vehicles became smarter and harder to crack, criminals developed newer methods for breaking in.
Relay boxes can create the same signal your key fob does when entering your vehicle, enabling criminals to open it without needing keys and start it without keys. They are easy and cheap tools available online that work effectively – which makes this technique especially dangerous for motorists.
One way to prevent this trick is to install a physical immobilizer in your car, such as a shift lock that requires special key to activate or steering wheel lock, which will deter thieves from hot wiring your car or inserting screwdrivers to start its engine. Kia and Hyundai both provide such devices through dealerships; additionally they supply these tools directly to police departments affected by these crimes.
Hacking into your car system is another effective method, using accessing its Controller Area Network (CAN) bus found in most modern vehicles. CAN buses allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate, but hackers can introduce fraudulent messages into the system that bypass immobilisers.
Thanks to greater security measures, CAN injection attacks have become less frequent over time. Unfortunately, car theft remains an ongoing problem; last year alone over one million cars were stolen across the US alone and this figure continues to grow.
Make your car less vulnerable to theft by not leaving its keys near exterior walls of your home and not storing them near any metal objects, like wallets and bags with signal-blocking properties for key storage. Signal blocking wallets are another great way of keeping keys safe from thieves. You could also add aftermarket security, but be sure to consult with the manufacturer first regarding warranty restrictions.
2. Theft of a keyless entry system
Keyless entry systems can be an incredible convenience – no more fumbling with keys on an icy morning or taking them out of your pocket in order to start your car! But this convenience comes at a cost: thieves are now more adept than ever at stealing vehicles using sophisticated methods of bypassing immobilisers, so drivers should remain especially alert while driving their vehicle.
Thieves can now use the same techniques used to break into smartphones to gain entry to vehicles equipped with keyless entry and ignition systems. Their technique works by amplifying signal from car fobs, which they then use to unlock doors and start engines.
To avoid this scenario, make sure your keys are never in plain view and never left lying around. Also park in a secure location such as a garage or behind locked gates. Consider getting mechanical security devices installed such as steering wheel locks or car alarms which act as deterrents against thieves, with some insurers even offering discounts if these devices are installed – just ensure they have been tested against tools such as crook locks or angle grinders before investing.
By hot-wiring their vehicle, thieves can bypass an immobiliser. This technique is commonly seen among older Hondas from the mid 90’s. Newer models come equipped with computer chips in their ignition keys to prevent this from occurring; however, even this can still be overcome by jamming a screwdriver into the ignition and turning it. Some criminals even attempt to damage its power steering system so as to disable it altogether.
One of the most hazardous new techniques involves purchasing an old Nintendo Game Boy-looking device available on the Internet and using it to code a key for your vehicle, enabling thieves to start it up and drive off with it.
3. Hacking into the immobiliser
An immobiliser is an electronic device which prevents cars from starting without their correct key or fob present, and has been mandatory on new vehicles since 1998. While it has greatly reduced vehicle thefts, thieves will always find a way around security systems – forcing manufacturers to constantly improve and adapt their technology in response.
Recent immobilisers utilise transponder technology to communicate with a car’s electronic brain. The system analyzes signal emitted by key fobs to check against predetermined codes for unlocking ignitions; if a mismatch exists, ECU will disable components essential for engine starting; thus immobilising car. Furthermore, an alarm will sound to warn driver that theft attempt has taken place and many digital systems in high-end cars notify security firms so that they contact driver to confirm car is unattended.
Thieves often attempt to “hot-wire” a vehicle by inserting a screwdriver into its ignition and jamming it, bypassing its immobiliser, and starting up its engine and driving away. To protect against this threat, newer cars have integrated shift locks and steering wheel locks that respond to signals sent from chips embedded within keys; some also feature security features requiring drivers to enter their PIN number before starting up their vehicles.
Ghost immobilisers are more advanced forms of security that can be added to a car for extra protection against theft. Unlike standard immobilisers, ghost systems include security measures to stop key cloning, signal jamming and device spoofing from bypassing factory-fitted immobilisers. Furthermore, ghost immobilisers require that drivers enter a unique pin code through buttons found on the centre console, steering wheel and pedals in order to work – making it very hard for thieves to hack.
4. Theft of a keyless entry system
Many cars now feature keyless entry and ignition, which is great; it allows drivers to enter their cars easily on an icy morning without fumbling around and start their vehicle quickly with just the press of a button. Unfortunately, thieves have found a way around this system and have begun abusing it on an unprecedented scale.
Simply, they can bypass the rolling code and deceive your car into thinking your key fob is within range, which allows them to unlock it, start it, and drive away within minutes. This practice is known as relay theft and involves criminals purchasing online devices that decode the signal sent out from your key fob and boost it directly to a transmitter hidden inside their house; then this transmitter masquerades as your key fob and convinces it into opening and starting up your car.
Process only takes minutes and is extremely quiet and stealthy, yet has more than doubled in recent years, becoming an increasing concern for car owners. There are, however, ways to prevent this type of theft such as placing your vehicle in a garage or locked behind gates; installing metal spikes/crowbars onto driveways; and fitting steering wheel locks on vehicles.
But the best way to guard against keyless theft is installing a physical immobilizer system, as this prevents thieves from simply hot-wiring and driving off with your vehicle or using tools such as screwdrivers to jam into its ignition and start it without leaving evidence behind.
These physical systems can be purchased online and provide an affordable way to prevent your car being stolen. Although not completely effective, these measures make it much harder for thieves to rob your car.