- High-tech car theft refers to how thieves use technology to combat increasingly complex security systems brought about by technological advancement.
- Modern car thieves can hack key fobs, intercept radio frequencies, and reprogram vehicles to steal them.
- Some of the best ways to protect your vehicle are to frequently download software updates, use a steering lock, and invest in signal-blocking pouches.
High-tech car theft refers to the methods that car thieves use that utilize technology in some way or another. While “standard” car theft revolves around breaking in or hotwiring a vehicle, “high-tech” car theft focuses on intercepting signals and hacking into vehicles by tampering with software.
How Do Thieves Use Technology to Steal Cars?
As the technology in cars advances, so too does the technology car thieves use. To keep up with increasingly complex security systems, not to mention the rising prominence of signals and Bluetooth, thieves are now capable of intercepting transmissions and signals.
Here are some of the many ways modern thieves bypass high-tech safety measures:
Hacking key fobs
One of the most common ways thieves steal cars with technology is by hacking wireless key fobs, and this often requires two people working together.
One of the thieves will wait near the driver with an antenna and a high-tech car theft device that’s capable of receiving signals and transmissions from the key fob.
The accomplice will wait by the car once the signal is received. The thief will pick up the signal of the key fob with the antenna and relay it to their accomplice, who will then open the car using that signal.
Intercepting Radio Frequencies
Another way thieves use technology to steal cars is by intercepting radio frequencies to steal codes. A thief may copy the signal sent by the key fob to your vehicle while you check whether your vehicle is locked.
When your car receives the signal, the lights flash to indicate that it’s received the code to lock itself. This gives the thieves information about which vehicle to target. A thief who has a copy of the code can easily trick your car with some extra hardware, allowing them to unlock your car and drive away.
One of the ways to counter this form of car theft is to lock your vehicles manually. Always be wary of your surroundings, and keep a sharp eye out for suspicious people who might be watching you and your vehicle.
Reprogramming Your Vehicle
Modern car thieves are also capable of stealing your vehicle by using reprogrammed key fobs. Through the dark web and illegal websites, it’s possible to get your hands on blank key fobs and vehicle codes that correspond to specific car models.
By using these codes on blank key fobs, thieves can trick vehicles and get inside without triggering any alarms or security systems. Simultaneously, using these reprogrammed fobs also locks the previous owner out of their vehicles by disabling the original key fob.
USB Hacking / The Kia Challenge
Last but not least, one of the most common high-tech car theft tools is a simple USB stick. After breaking into your vehicle, a particularly tech-savvy car thief might jack a USB connector in the steering column.
Popularly known as the “Kia Challenge,” the thieves known as the Kia Boyz gained a lot of attention on TikTok by releasing videos of them breaking into Kia vehicles, crashing into public property, and damaging the cars in the process.
These vehicles became easy targets because many models weren’t equipped with immobilizers to cut power and lock the steering wheel. The process was simple enough that they were able to pull it off with nothing more than a screwdriver and a USB cable.
High-Tech Car Theft Prevention: How to Protect Your Vehicle
Familiarizing yourself with how modern car thieves use technology to steal cars is one thing, but knowing some of the many different ways to protect your vehicle from them is another. Here are some tried-and-tested ways people protect their vehicles from high-tech car theft.
Download the Latest Vehicle Software Updates
Generally speaking, software updates are released to address problems in previous versions. This includes security issues and exploits. Downloading the latest software updates means your vehicle will always be up to date, giving it access to newer and more effective security measures.
These updates are sometimes released specifically to counteract the technology and methods used by car thieves.
Get a Signal Blocking Pouch
Since a lot of modern car thieves steal vehicles by intercepting the signals that come from key fobs, one of the best ways to protect your car is to get a signal-blocking pouch. They do exactly what their name suggests — prevent things inside them from transmitting signals to anything outside them.
RFID-blocking pouches and bags are your best friends. You can also use things like aluminum tins to prevent your key fob from emitting any signals.
Install a Steering Wheel Lock
One of the simplest and most effective ways to protect your vehicle from thieves is to use the steering wheel lock. This way, even if someone does use technology to break into your car, they’ll need to deal with the lock before driving away with it.
If a thief isn’t prepared, it’ll take them significantly more time and put them at risk of making noise. Most will be deterred by the sheer inconvenience and difficulty of a steering wheel lock.
Use a Motion Sensor Fob
Another way to protect your vehicle is to invest in a motion sensor fob that stops itself from transmitting any signals after it’s been left alone for a long enough time. The problem with most key fobs is that they continue to transmit signals even when they’re not in use, allowing well-equipped thieves to steal or intercept them.
A motion sensor fob will disable the fob when not in use. This comes with the added benefit of increasing its overall battery life. If you’d rather not invest in a motion sensor fob, you can also consider getting one that can be manually disabled.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Vehicle’s Technology
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to protect your vehicle from would-be car thieves is to familiarize yourself with the many features of your vehicle.
Your ride might already have built-in security systems like ultra-wideband radio to block unwanted individuals from reading your vehicle’s signal or a password lock system.
Your vehicle owner’s manual should cover all there is to know about your car so keep an eye out for anything that might come in handy.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.