Key fob hacking – how does it work?

Key fob hacking – how does it work?

Key fob hacking is the most common reason for keyless car theft. It is a modern way for criminals to take advantage of your property. There are various ways of attacking, and thieves employ various techniques to achieve their goals, but the result is the same. Owners are victims of these malicious plans. It became a challenge for owners, manufacturers, and even insurers to fight against this theft which is a multi-billion-dollar crime with a cost of $6 billion in 2019 alone as NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reports. As vehicles are the principal mode of transportation for every one of us, we do not want them to disappear just because we do not want to take measures to strengthen protection.

Before you start thinking about what you can do, let’s discuss what is a keyless entry hack, what you should expect from wrongdoers, and then learn what are recommendations to fight against it effectively. Let’s start!

What is Key fob hacking? 

Generally speaking, it is manipulating the communication of key fobs and receivers to the thief’s advantage in order to steal keyless automobiles. The point is that criminals use slightly different methods for hacking but the reason which makes it easier to gain access is the same: the vulnerability of keyless technology. The consequences of such theft are always severe. In the worst-case scenario, criminals can take your auto or steal valuables from you. 

As we already mentioned, each method works differently. In the following paragraph let’s see what is the mechanism behind them and how they differ from one another. 

Key fob hacking: types of attacks 

Signal relay – two attackers work together. They use a wireless transmitter, one stands close to the front door or windows of the owners and captures the signal from the original key, and relays it to the receiver in the targeted auto. As a result, it fails and thinks that the key is in range. Consequently, it opens the car effortlessly. The same works with the ignition and it’s easy to start the vehicle by repeating the same process. Those devices are available online, according to the Daily Mail, and it costs only £100. To make matters worse, no one takes responsibility for selling this product freely. They claim that they do not support unethical usage of it. 

Replay – in this case, the thief with unauthorized access, eavesdrops on the communication, captures the signal from the remote when you open the front door, stores it, and replays this message later, acting as an original sender. The receiver is tricked into thinking that it is an original message, but it’s not. The same happens when a cybercriminal steals credentials from a network server and reuses them to access the server.  

Man-in a middle – it is another form of car key fob hack. The main characteristic is that criminals can not only intercept but also modify and change messages to their advantage. With the help of this method, attackers can control conversations between two parties. Man-in-a-middle attacks are especially dangerous for connected vehicles because they come with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular communications, and Near Field Communications (NFC), so those attacks allow modification of the network traffic, intercept credentials, and installation of malicious updates. Moreover, it can be a foundation for a more serious crime, criminals easily gain control of the steering wheel or change the speed against your wish. 

Rolljam attacks – according to Medium, an American online publishing platform, a rolljam attack happens by recording and blocking the radio signal from the remote. How exactly? The first signal is blocked, so the sender tries again. The second signal is also recorded and blocked, but now the criminal uses the first code to unlock the auto. The point is that the attacker knows the sequence and can use it at any desirable time. What makes this attack possible? Modern fobs use a rolling code system, which means that every time you push the unlock button, it uses algorithms and produces a new code. Old codes are always useless when there is a new one. This prevents other types of hacking but because of the system’s vulnerability, it is easy to perform Rolljam attacks. 

As you can see, key fob hacking can be done in various ways. Owners are the victim at any rate. The only thing that you can do for preventing such crime is to stay alert and protect your ride as long as it is possible. 

How to mitigate attacks 

Cybersecurity is one of the main worries of many people worldwide. Those people are who develop technologies and people who use them. keyless entry cars easily become the target of thieves, because the system has a weakness that makes it easier for them to take advantage. ABC News reports:” Cybersecurity experts like GlobalSecurityIQ CEO Holly Hubert said that relay attack threats were first detected in 2016 after remotes became increasingly prevalent in cars”.

As NHTSA recommended, there are particular rules and if we follow them, it will be the basic strategy for preventing theft. However, when it comes to keyless entry hack, there are more particular tips for prevention. Tips are as followings:

  • Park in a garage if it is possible. If you don’t have it, find a well-lit area where criminals grab the attention of the police. 
  • Store your keys smartly. Putting them near the front door or windows without the proper coverage is the silliest thing you can do.
  • Consider deactivation. Yes, you can deactivate your fob in most cases. Firstly, you should check the owner’s manual and see if the feature can be disabled. To put it simply, you can disable it and it will be impossible for hackers to break in. 

Be careful – Some methods fail 

When it comes to protecting fobs from danger, the first thing that comes to your mind is proper coverage. The most popular and inexpensive storage for it is the Faraday bag. It is an enclosure used for blocking electromagnetic fields. So, it is considered one of the best options to block signals. The main problem with it is that many manufacturers produce them and it is hard to guess which one works best. The point is that if it fails, there is no point in using it. As experts warn, the first thing you should do after purchasing is test it properly before you use it. Another worry is that those bags remove the convenience keyless technology offers. 

In addition to that, you should be careful when you decide to defend your fob by wrapping it in tin foil or storing them in the microwave or fringe. Those are the most common recommendations on the internet. Sometimes it is not worth it.  Wrapping in aluminum foil can be the most unreliable method because it does not provide enough shielding. As for microwaves and fringe, instead of preventing car key fob hack, they can damage your keys and make them useless. 

What do people use for ensuring guaranteed security?

You have already read about different methods, but none of them seems flawless. However, there is a tool that we haven’t mentioned yet. Cybercrime needs a high-tech solution. The manufacturer of a Secure FOB knows it well. Hence, they created an electronic chip that is installed in the fob, covers the battery from both sides, and deactivates it after 3 minutes of being motionless to make sure that it doesn’t send radio waves without a necessity. It consists of a 3D motion sensor, LED indicator, microprocessor, and flexible base.

In brief, It is considered the best blocker against the amplifier – the famous device used in key fob hacking. Additional benefits it offers make this product outstanding on the market. For example, it can end worries about the battery’s life expectancy. As makers report, it can extend battery life significantly. Additionally, it is user-friendly and doesn’t require cutting cables. 

So, if you are searching for a solution that gives you peace of mind and lets you sleep calmly, this protector is the best you can own. 


So, as you learned, a keyless entry hack is one of the biggest challenges for all. Fortunately, you can fight against it in various ways. Some are more reliable, some are less. It depends on you what you choose. I suggest you choose quality over quantity when it comes to creating a safe environment for your automobile. Hence, invest in the tool that allows you to enjoy its flawless performance. Avoiding car key fob hack and improving safety was never as easy as it is today! You deserve the best.

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