Is it possible for someone to unlock my car using their remote?

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remote key fob

If you are an owner of one of the 1.2 billion cars in the world, the thought of someone breaking into your car could be one of your nightmares. The truth of the matter is that unless you are a crook with sophisticated code blocking devices, the average person won’t be able to walk up to your car and unlock it with their remote. 

The handheld devices you use to open your car, otherwise known as key fobs, have evolved greatly since the 1950s when remote control technology was first used to open garage doors (via Mental Floss). Back in those days, the science was rudimentary at best, and all remote fobs sent out the same signal. This meant that as long as you owned one you could pretty much open any door, anywhere you wanted.

When it came to cars, however, remote entry systems were a little more evolved. Manufacturers devised a system where each car had its own code that could not be used with any other car. While this was a significant improvement in terms of safety over its predecessors, there was still a major security issue, car owners had to contend with. The codes were not varied which made them vulnerable for hackers to steal these codes with “code-grabbing” devices and use them to unlock your door in a matter of minutes. Thankfully, times have changed and manufacturers have since come up with better ways to keep your car secure. 

It’s all in the code

man peering in car

From the mid-1990s, auto manufacturers used rolling codes, also known as hopping codes in their keyless entry systems. These codes replaced single codes that were previously used and led to making it harder for criminals to steal your car (via The New York Times). This new rolling code technology worked by syncing the transmitter found inside your fob remote with a controller chip located in a receiver that’s in your car. By working together, they are able to randomly generate new codes every time you lock or unlock your car. This means that there could be billions or even trillions of possibilities of what the next code will be.

With this level of encryption, you would never have to worry about your vehicle after you walk away from it. Also, it would thwart thieves from using sneaky code-grabbing devices that can intercept and clone signals from your remote so they could break into your car.

Protect Yourself From Car Thefts

remote key fob

Rolling codes are not completely foolproof, and you should be extra wary if you are a car owner — especially if you have a keyless car. “Hackers and criminals are getting even more sophisticated,” according to Doug Shuppe from the American Automobile Association (per Fox5). He explains that there are new hacking devices available that can amplify your transmitter’s signal and make it easier than ever for them to break into your car.

So, what can you do to protect yourself? A tool that offers extra security for owners against burglars is a Faraday bag. This type of bag is known to be effective due to its copper-foil lining which  actively works to block all fob signals. It can be compared to having your phone switched to airplane mode and not being able to give off any signals (via Privacy Pros). You can also put your fob in a metal or tin box if you are at home. Another more practical tip is to not leave valuables in your car so you don’t have to entice criminals in the first place.

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