THE CYBERSAFETY ZONE: Hacking Your Car?

BY JOSEPH KOVAL

Vehicle theft has gone “high tech.”

Automobile remote keyless entry systems (RKE) were introduced in the 1980s. They’ve proved to be a big hit, making it easier for the grocery-laden to unlock their cars and sparing many of the terminally forgetful from finding they’ve left their keys in the ignitions of their now-locked vehicles or their purses on the seats of same.

This is NOT about the key fob that requires you to insert a key into the door lock.  This is the type of key fob that you can have in your pocket and, just by being within a close proximity to your vehicle, you can unlock the doors wirelessly.

There have been a multitude of recent social media posts concerning a “one night” theft of four high end vehicles in the North Rockland area.  With no signs of forced entry or any missing car key fobs, it is a high probability that this is the result of “KEYFOB SPOOFING”.  Leveraging this form of vulnerability can be achieved with, as little as, a $20 investment in hardware. Such a small investment for such a large return!

The majority of this type of theft works this way:

There are two devices that the bad guys use.  One person carries one device near the home, where the key fob is thought to be (hanging in a garage, in a kitchen, etc.) and one person stands near the target vehicle.  When the device near the home detects the signal being emitted or read from the car key fob it relays the signal to the second device near the vehicle.  The car is now unlocked and ready to be started.  Quiet, simple, cheap, and VERY effective.  The occupants will hear nothing and be none the wiser that their expensive vehicle was just broken into and is now being driven away.

The device is called a Faraday cage or Faraday shield, in this case – Faraday pouch.  Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.  Some common uses of the Faraday cage – (excerpt from Wikipedia):

The scan room of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine is designed as a Faraday cage. This prevents external RF (radio frequency) signals from being added to data collected from the patient, which would affect the resulting image. Radiographers are trained to identify the characteristic artifacts created on images should the Faraday cage be damaged during a thunderstorm.

A microwave oven utilizes a Faraday cage, which can be partly seen covering the transparent window, to contain the electromagnetic energy within the oven and to shield the exterior from radiation.

Plastic bags that are impregnated with metal are used to enclose electronic toll collection devices whenever tolls should not be charged to those devices, such as during transit or when the user is paying cash.  The shield of a screened cable, such as USB cables or the coaxial cable used for cable television, protects the internal conductors from external electrical noise and prevents the RF signals from leaking out.                                                                                                                              [end of excerpt]

It is VERY cheap for the bad guys to leverage this type of theft.  It is also inexpensive for YOU to protect yourself.  I have done extensive research on this topic and there are a myriad of solutions, from the very expensive to the affordable.  If you are interested in protecting yourself and thwarting this type of theft, please send me an email: joe@syber3.com.  I will direct you to a sound and cost effective solution.

This is happening to your neighbors and maybe it has already happened to you.  DON’T let it happen again.  There is no reason to ignore this information.  DO NOT say to yourself, “This won’t happen to me”.  Please visit my Syber3 Facebook and LinkedIn pages as well as my informative website: www.syber3.com.

Joseph Koval is the owner and president of Syber3 – Syber Security Solutions located in Rockland County. He has over 27 years of Cyber Security experience and project management.