Keyless entry is great, for the most part

Tech advances are supposed to make things easier. For the most part, this is true. Let’s take keyless entry as an example. Back in the day, after purchasing a ride one of the best feelings was receiving the keys. The owner/dealer after having wrapped everything up would come out, pull out of his/her pocket the keys to your new car, dangling in the sunlight, the brand prominently displayed, and hand them over. You grabbed said key, held it up, and proudly proclaimed, “I can’t believe you accepted my offer for 25% off the Blue Book value of this car!” Ha, just kidding, but if you did manage to negotiate 25% off the Blue Book good on you. That’s quite the feat.

But back to the feeling for a second. It’s a fabulous feeling, receiving that key and beginning a new relationship with a new car. Yet, technology has stepped in and keyless entry via a fob has replaced that new key feeling. First however, let’s focus on the positive. For one, keyless entry for the most part is more convenient. Long gone is the awkward fumbling for the keys, juggling grocery bags and attempting to dig them out of your purse or backpack. With a fob, a simple push will open the doors and put the ignition to work.

Second, (in general) fobs provide for better security. But not always, and we will touch on that in a second. Unique codes for unlocking the car make the car harder to steal. Certain brands will use computer-encrypted microchips to further enhance security layers and this has played out well overall. Third, automatic locking, as with fobs you can lock the car at some pretty amazing distances without having to worry. Of all the benefits, this might be the greatest. But as with anything, there have been some challenges with keyless entry, and the biggest challenge today is cloning.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and Belgium’s KU Leuven have discovered a potential security breach in millions of cars with radio-enabled key fobs. Makes and models from 2009 to 2017 are at risk, with Toyota, Kia and Hyundai leading the pack in terms of vulnerability. This breach is possible because the key fobs are broadcasting an encryption key that is based on a serial number, a number that is relatively standard. This standard number is broadcast when the fob is used to unlock the car and hackers can in turn pick it up.

The good news however is to clone a fob the hacker would need to be physically close to you to scan it using a RFID device. So your car being stolen “online” is still a long-shot. Manufacturers are working hard to develop patches and get out in front of the fob breach, but hackers these days continue to be one step ahead. Tech made easy is not always an easy road to follow.

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