Keyless Car System Theft


Keyless entry systems in modern cars provide convenience but also pose security challenges, with a growing number of car thefts exploiting this technology. Thieves use methods such as relay attacks, headlight hacking, key cloning, OBD port attacks, and signal blocking to gain unauthorised access to vehicles. To combat keyless car theft, owners can employ protective measures like signal blocking accessories, physical anti-theft devices, car alarms, software updates, disabling passive entry, and installing tracking devices. These strategies help mitigate risks and enhance vehicle security against evolving theft methods.


Keyless entry systems have become increasingly prevalent in modern cars, offering convenience but also introducing new security challenges. Among these challenges is the rising incidence of car thefts utilising keyless entry technology, which poses significant security risks that must be addressed. This article explores various methods employed by thieves to exploit keyless entry systems and offers practical strategies for protecting against such thefts.

Methods of Keyless Car Theft

Figure 1. Methods of Keyless Car Theft

1. Relay Attacks:

Relay attacks are one of the most common methods used for keyless car theft. There are two different ways in which keyless car systems work:

  • Remote Keyless Entry (RKE): Car doors unlock when a button is pressed. When the button is pressed, encrypted data is sent to the car.
  • Passive Keyless Entry and Start (PKES): Car doors become unlocked when the physical contact with a button on a door is made. Low frequency waves signal the key fob.

Relay attacks involve intercepting the signal between the car and the key fob. This allows thieves to remotely access the vehicle by tricking it into believing the key is nearby, enabling them to unlock the doors and start the engine.

2. Headlight Hacking:

Headlight hacking is when the communication systems within cars are exploited, sometimes using the headlights, to gain unauthorised access. Instances have been reported where the engine is started through manipulation of the car's lighting system using hacking technology.

3. Key Cloning:

Key cloning involves duplicating the code of a key fob to create a copy capable of unlocking the car. This method grants thieves physical access to the vehicle without detection.

4. OBD Port Attacks:

Onboard diagnostics (OBD) ports, primarily intended for vehicle diagnostics and maintenance, can be exploited by thieves to gain remote access to cars. Specialised devices bypass security mechanisms, allowing unauthorised entry.

5. Signal Blocking:

Signal-blocking techniques are employed to jam GPS signals, disrupting communication between devices, and preventing tracking systems from functioning effectively. This enables them to steal vehicles unnoticed when the owner is away.

Protective Measures against Keyless Car Theft

To safeguard against keyless car theft, consider implementing the following measures:

  • Signal Blocking Accessories: Utilise devices that block radio signals to prevent relay attacks.
  • Physical Anti-Theft Devices: Use wheel clamps or steering wheel locks to physically deter theft.
  • Car Alarms and Engine Immobilisers: Install alarms and systems that require a PIN for ignition, adding layers of security.
  • Software Updates: Regularly update vehicle software to incorporate advanced security measures and patch vulnerabilities.
  • Disabling Passive Entry: Turn off passive entry features when not in use to minimise the risk of unauthorised access.
  • Tracking Devices: Install GPS tracking systems to monitor the location of your vehicle in case of theft, facilitating recovery efforts.


As keyless entry systems continue to proliferate, it's essential for car owners to remain vigilant against evolving methods of theft. By implementing these protective measures, individuals can mitigate the risks associated with keyless car theft and enhance the security of their vehicles.