Breaking Into Cars With Keyless Entry Systems

A reader named Josh recently e-mailed to share a news story about how thieves have been breaking into cars equipped with keyless entry systems. Apparently there’s been a rash of break-ins with no signs of forced entry.

In the story, a NY Times writer shares how he witnessed two teens approaching his Toyota Prius armed with “a small black device.” Armed with this device, they were able to quickly open the door and enter his vehicle.

After consulting with a security expert, he learned that the little black box was likely a “power amplifier” that amplifies the distance your vehicle can search for a nearby key fob. The amplifier apparently allowed his car to detect the key fob in his kitchen, thereby letting the doors unlock.

Note: This “hack” only affects vehicles with proximity sensors. The more traditional, button-based keyless entry systems are safe. But if your car recognizes the presence of a nearby Smart Key (or similar) and unlocks with a touch, it could be susceptible.

The author of the article reports that he has started keeping his keys in the freezer to dampen the signal, though Josh also suggests that putting your keys in a cocktail shaker would be equally effective.

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3 comments… add one
  • CJ777 May 26, 2015

    I would like to share what I found in the HL manual.

    By pressing and holding the lock key, then pressing the unlock key twice, your changing the keyfob mode to not send out any signals.
    This helps save keyfob battery, and dissuades car theif using the amplifier device, as they would not be able to open your car with it.

    I tried it, and keyless entry(just by holding the cardoor handle) in my HL car is disabled as well.

    To return to previous functionality of keyfob, just press any key on the keyfob.

  • fastfriend Jan 31, 2016

    Thank you CJ777 for that gem. I go sailing and want to lock my expensive FOB in the car where it can’t get wet or lost overboard off the boat or dock etc. Now I can do that…it should also allow me to find a place to hide the smaller less expensive and sensitive to the elements emergency key somewhere on the vehicle exterior that could get me back in if I lost the emergency key in the lake. I will also now defeat the signal every time I stay in a motel or park outside a restaurant when I am in the city. Amazing tip…

  • Seajhay Jul 4, 2016

    in regards to keys and water issues (i surf) you can disconnect the small key from in the FOB, attach it to your person/wetsuit/somewhere-safe-on-your-watercraft. open your gas refill cover via the fuel cover release button, put your electronic FOB on the rubber below the gas tank cap [there’s enough room] and then close it. the FOB is too far from any of the proximity sensors to unlock. when done with your activity, open the car with the emergency key, open the fuel door and retrieve your FOB. then do a safety dance…if your friends don’t dance…well, they’re no friends of mine…

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