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Keyless Entry Theft with Range Extender Devices

A keyless entry system for a car is designed as a convenience aid, i.e., no need to get the keys out of your pocket or bag. Unfortunately, the keyless entry technology can be hacked. The use of wireless car keys, a.k.a. "fobs", has been common for many years. The hacking of fobs has been around for almost as long as the keyless fob technology. Cars are valuable items, so criminals are looking for the easiest way to steal them. This article provides some links to videos about keyless entry theft with range extender devices, and some methods to avoid falling victim to it.

Car Key Fob

Keyless Entry Hack Devices

There is usually more than one way to hack a keyless entry system, including:

  • Blocking the wireless signal so that an unsuspecting car owner doesn't realise that the car has not locked. This is known as signal jamming.
  • Capturing the wireless signal when it is being transmitted, then replaying the signal when the car owner is out of sight. This is known as a replay attack.
  • Magnifying the signal so that it works over a longer range is signal boosting. A news report can be seen here.
  • A keyless entry range extender device is used to lengthen the wireless range. A keyless entry range extender is a two-part device. One part is held close to the key outside of the normal key range. The second part is held close to the car. This is similar to a signal booster but does not amplify it as much, instead, it relays the signal between two devices, i.e. this is a relay attack.

This article is about the relay attack. There are links to videos showing keyless entry cars stolen using a keyless entry range extender device. It is easy to stop such hacks and some tips are given. It doesn't take much effort to find sellers of devices that can perform keyless car hacks, here are a couple of examples:

1st example of a website selling keyless repeaters.

Keyless Repeaters for sale

2nd example of a website selling keyless repeaters.

A Seller of Keyless Range Extenders

List of Videos on Keyless Entry Range Extender Theft

How to Protect Keyless Entry Cars

Methods for keyless entry car theft prevention are available. Here is a list, with links to videos demonstrating the prevention method.

  • Switch off the keyless entry system (ask the car dealer). E.g. in the first video above a Mercedes-Benz was stolen. Their KEYLESS GO system can be disabled by pressing the lock button twice. See the end of the Mercedes video How Does The KEYLESS-GO Smart Key Work?.
  • Tin Box, you may also see people recommending storing your keys in the fridge, well a fridge is just a tin box, so a simple tin box is probably more convenient than the fridge.
  • Faraday Bag, Faraday bags are commonly available from online retailers.
  • Aluminium Foil, using aluminium foil to prevent keyless entry theft, demonstrated on a Ford keyless entry system.

Plus keep your keys away from the front of the house (also prevents thieves "fishing" for keys through a letterbox). Ultimately this problem will go away as manufacturers add extra security and switch to new keyless technology, such as Ultra-wideband (UWB) which also allows newer smartphones to be used as keys.

See Also


Miki on 23rd November 2021 at 19:59 said: I saw these on sale the other day - URL redacted

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