About two years ago the public was warned about Relay Attack Units. These devices are used to unlock the vehicles. The vehicles are opened. Then thieves start them and steal them.
Car manufacturers introduced Passive Keyless Entry and Start (PKES) systems These systems allow users to open and start their cars while having their car keys ‘in their pockets’.
This feature is very convenient for the users since they don’t have to search for their keys when approaching or preparing to start the car.
The PKES system is vulnerable to relay attacks. In a relay attack, the attacker places one of her devices in the proximity of they key. The other device is placed in the proximity of the car. The attacker relays messages between the key and the car This enables the car to be opened and started even if the key is physically far from the car.
Engineers in Europe developed this device for manufacturers and anti-theft organisations. The unit assists in the manufacturers’ ability to test the weakness of various vehicles’ systems. These Relay Attack Units work on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and push-button ignition.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau did a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two week period. Thirty five different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested.
By the end of two weeks, using one of the Relay Attack Units, 54% of the vehicles were opened 51% of the vehicles were driven away. Of those that were started, 34% were shut off and then restarted using the device.
The NICB warns that car owners should always be aware of their surroundings when using the remote to unlock or lock their car doors. Suspicious people standing around the vehicle is one clue that your remote’s signal is being intercepted. The Bureau suggests that in this situation a car owner should skip the remote and rather lock the car manually.