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How to Prevent Key Hacks and Relay Attacks

Without your knowledge, your car is stolen right under your nose. Your key fob is in your house, yet the thieves are able to drive away with your vehicle right from your driveway. How?

“Smart car” thefts have been exponentially increasing as the mainstream production of “smart cars” with push-to-start systems have also been growing in numbers.

Since the introduction of Push-to-Start systems in the mid-2000s, millions of drivers have enjoyed the convenience of being able to start and unlock their vehicles without having to reach into their pockets for their keys. This feature is widely accepted by the majority of car consumers for its convenience, however recent years have proven how thieves are also finding new ways to counter these new technologies with key hack attacks AKA relay attacks.

In this blog, we will explain why Compustar is the best solution to protect against key hack attacks.


What is a Vehicle Key Hack or Relay Attack?

A key hack attack describes a method that allows thieves to unlock and start a vehicle without the tangible key fob with them. The thieves can use cheap devices called radio transmitters and scan for the signals emitted by your wireless key fob to amplify it, tricking your vehicle to think that the key fob is nearby and unlocking it.

The most common method of a relay attack is called Signal Boosting or Key Cloning. This method requires 2 thieves. This is where Thief 1 holds a radio signal transmitter device a few feet from the victim’s key, while Thief 2 holds the other near the target car. Thief 1’s device copies the radio code emitted by the key and then transmits it to the other device and then to the key. Then it immediately transmit the key’s response back along the chain, which tricks the car to unlock because it thinks that the key is nearby and in the driver’s hand.

Here is a video that shows this attack in action:

Almost any car owner with a keyless entry vehicle is vulnerable to these types of theft attacks. So how do you protect against it?


What Are Existing Solutions To Combat Key Hack Attacks?

There are some other existing methods that car brands and owners use to combat relay attacks. Some of those methods include:

Faraday Pouches

Faraday pouches are an enclosed, sealed unit which prevents signals from being sent and received thanks to the material the bag is made from.

But there have been many cases where faraday pouches have been ineffective in successfully blocking key fob signals. There are many forums and videos online where customers who own Faraday pouches have been disappointed in its ability to block signals over time due to cheap materials.

Rolling Codes

Rolling codes are what newer models use so that the code changes every time the FOB is used (using a Pseudorandom Number Generator or PRNG), so even if hackers capture the transmission, they may not be able to open or start the vehicle.

Unfortunately, thieves have created workarounds, such as Kamkar’s rolljam attack – leaving these vehicles still vulnerable to these threats.

Reprogramming Your Key Fob Periodically

You can go to the manufacturer of your vehicle or an auto locksmith to reprogram your key fob. Although be warned, programming of some vehicles keys can be quite expensive, especially if you go direct to the dealership.


Why Compustar Is The Best Solution for Blocking Key Hack Attacks


Compustar security systems were built and designed intentionally with these attacks in mind. Our security systems include various car alarm and security features that minimize the potential for a thief to drive away with your vehicle.

Some Compustar features that protect against relay attacks include:

#1: Secure Push-to-Start

Secure Push-to-Start is a starter kill feature. This means that even if a thief manages to get inside your vehicle, they won’t be able to start the engine because this component safely disables your car’s starter until you disarm the security system from your Compustar remote or DroneMobile App.

For non push-to-start vehicle, Compustar alarms can be installed with a traditional “starter-kill” device, which is a relay that disables your starter while your alarm is armed.

Adding a starter-kill to your vehicle is one of the best solutions for eliminating car theft. Potential key-hackers/car-jackers won’t be able to start your engine unless they have both your vehicle’s key and your Compustar remote to fully disable the alarm.

Security features like “Secure Push-to-Start” and “Starter-Kill” are available with most Compustar systems.

Universal Secure Push-to-Start Accessory >

Secure Push-to-Start for Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/RAM >


#2: Two-Way Remotes with Alarm Alerts

An effective security system isn’t complete if you aren’t notified when your car is in danger. Compustar remote starters like the PRO T13 or T12 have 2-way capabilities. Compustar remotes featuring 2-way alarm alerts communicate with other Compustar security components to notify you of any unwanted access or harm caused to your vehicle while you’re away.

Compustar remotes also utilize a combination of secure RF technology like frequency hopping, rolling codes, and 128-bit encryption to prevent the Compustar remotes from being hacked as easily as your vehicle’s key.


#3: 4-in-1 Security Sensor


Compustar security systems include all-around protection with its DAS-II 4-in-1 security sensor. The DAS-II security sensor will notify you of any threats to your vehicle which include detection from Impact/Intrusion (2 stages), Tilt, Forward Motion, and Glass Breakage.


#4: DroneMobile Smartphone Control


In the event that you forget to arm your Compustar security system and your vehicle is stolen, DroneMobile smartphone control gives you the ability to track your vehicle in real time.

DroneMobile alarm monitoring and GPS tracking can be added to ANY Compustar alarm system.


Check your vehicle’s compatibility

Compustar is the industry’s leading car security system that protects your vehicle while also adding remote start convenience to your daily driving experience. With key hack attacks on the rise in the U.S., Compustar security systems bring top-grade security, convenience, and a peace of mind to every car owner.

Visit our System Builder tool to check your vehicle’s compatibility with our Compustar systems or contact an Authorized Dealer/Installer near you!