Relay Attack against Keyless Vehicle Entry Systems Caught on Film


On 24 September, two men buck up a uprooted up alongside a home in Elmdon in the county of West Midlands, England. One of the men stalked up to the house while the other approached a Mercedes parked outside. The preceding waved a box in front of the victim’s house. Seconds later, the latter make knew the driver’s door of the victim’s car, got in, and drove away behind his partner.Profuse than two months later, the West Midlands Police has yet to recover the car. Its public officials are currently analyzing CCTV footage of the crime for possible clues that could pinch them identify the culprits. That recording is displayed below:

So how did the footpads make off with the car without needing the owner’s keys?

In all likelihood, they conducted a relay revile. It’s a type of hack that works against vehicles’ keyless entrant systems.

When someone approaches a car equipped with a keyless access system, that component attempts to talk with the key via electromagnetic signals. Such communication tolerates the vehicle to authenticate the key and unlock the door without requiring the individual to gentlemen of the press any buttons. It’s all about convenience; someone can unlock the door without needing to mishandle with the key as long as they have it in their possession.

To prevent events of abuse, these systems do have some restrictions. A vehicle can quest after out the key only within a limited range. If it does not successfully communicate with the key in that radius, the keyless memorandum system quits looking and keeps the vehicle’s door locked.

In any case, an attacker’s ingenuity can effectively circumvent those safeguards.

Indeed, a malicious actor can leverage a keyless memorandum system to silently break into a vehicle using a relay box. This thingamajig can amplify the distance that the car can search to tens if not hundreds of meters away. Attackers can hence use it in a manner that mimics the West Midlands theft: deploy the cool it box outside of a residential home where they key is most likely control at night and thereby gain entry to as well as turn on the vehicle.

Relay attacks and the keyless entry system cuts they exploit aren’t new. Nick Bilton wrote back in 2015 near how an unidentified girl broke into his Prius using “a small deadly device from her backpack.” In the process of searching for answers to explain what had happened, he ultimately came across Boris Danev, founder of 3db Technologies and an expert on care flaws in keyless entry systems.

Danev told Bilton how relay coffers work. As quoted by The New York Times:

It’s a bit like a loudspeaker, so when you say hello floor it, people who are 100 meters away can hear the word, ‘hello.’ You can buy these wills anywhere for under $100.

The press coverage of relay attacks has continued since then. In 2016, conviction researchers at the Munich-based automobile club ADAC published their declarations of an “amplification attack” they performed on 24 vehicles from 19 bizarre manufacturers. The test consisted of a pair of radio devices they built eating some chips, batteries, a radio transmitter, and an antenna that get just $225. One of the radios impersonated the car’s key and communicated with the car’s wireless coming system, whereas the other device sought a response from the key within a 300-foot radius.

Like research emerged in 2017 from researchers at the Beijing-based security strong Qihoo 360. Their setup allowed an actor to potentially unlock a car buying a relay attack at up to a thousand feet away. It also cost a only $22 to build.

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While investigators look into what developed in Elmdon, Mark Silvester from the West Midlands Police misdeed reduction team has some words for how vehicle owners can protect themselves. As recited by Sky News:

To protect against this type of theft, owners can use an additional tested and Thatcham-approved bad lock to cover the entire steering wheel. We also recommend Thatcham-approved ferret out solutions fitted to the vehicle. It is always worth speaking to your principal dealer, to ensure that your car has had all the latest software updates and talk to the core security concerns with them.

They can further protect themselves against relay attacks by responsibility their key in an RFID signal-blocking bag that blocks out electromagnetic signals.

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