Keyless access can be easily hacked

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A study by the ADAC Automobile Club shows that of the 500 cars tested, only 24 models have well-secured keyless access. Keyless entry is easily hacked into most vehicles.

More and more drivers are enjoying the convenience of accessing a vehicle without a key, so the key can stay in the pocket, and simply pulling the handle is all it takes to open the car. However, keyless access is relatively easy to hack and therefore insecure, as determined by the ADAC. Keyless access is relatively secure in only a few vehicles, as they use UVB technology, which has been available on smartphones since 2019.

UVB technology is available on iPhone 11 and Samsung smartphones

With ultra-wideband technology, it is possible to accurately locate objects from a distance of up to 30 centimeters. Vehicles with UVB only open when the key is at this distance from the door handle. If the signal propagation time is too long, the car remains closed.

However, special chips are needed to use UVB technology. Starting with the iPhone 11, Apple has installed a so-called U1 chip, which uses UVB technology. Samsung also offers some smartphones with a UVB chip, but you have to look carefully.

The all-new Galaxy S22 has no UVB, while the Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy S22 Ultra have this advanced tracking chip installed. Drivers can also use their smartphone as a car key, provided that the car has the appropriate keyless equipment installed. By the way, Apple Airtags also relies on UVB.

In the test, the ADAC tested 500 different models of keyless cars. Only 24 vehicles have UVB and therefore could not be broken. The ADAC uses a repeater to hack the connection so that the radio signal from the car key can be easily picked up and extended when criminals are near the car. You can open a car with keyless access, and in some vehicles even start the engine once and drive it for a limited time. Besides UVB, a key motion sensor is another way to protect against car theft without a key. In the test, 37 vehicles had a motion sensor in the remote control. The radio signal is automatically switched off if the car key does not move for a certain time. Although this technology is safer than the keyless access without protection that has been available since 2012, the motion sensor only works after a certain period, so there is a residual risk.

Which cars have secure keyless systems with UVB?

From March 2018, BMW will deliver a new generation of vehicle keys with new vehicles. If you drive a BMW without a key before this year of production, you can – for many series of models – order additional equipment in an allowed workshop. Opel has been using the motion sensor in the key since 2020, at least on the Corsa, Mokka and Grandland models. In VV, all new electric cars in the ID family are provided with UVB technology. In addition, the Golf 8 and the current Caddi and Polo (from 09/2021) have ultra-wideband technology. All other VV models rely on insecure and cheap keyless technology.

Not all car manufacturers offer relatively safe keyless technology. Currently, there is no vehicle from Peugeot, Suzuki, Renault and Nissan that have secure keyless access. Tesla also has something to make up for, as both the Model S and Model X use an insecure keyless approach. It is unclear whether the American electric car manufacturer may not have installed the safe technology for the facelift 2021, since the ADAC did not test the appropriate test vehicle.

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