By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

Technology and Car Theft

Modern technology in cars is usually a good thing.  It can make our cars safer, more comfortable, and much easier to steal.

There are two features that most modern cars have that can be exploited and have become the most common way cars are stolen.

According to a recent report Honda still leads the list of the top 10 most stolen cars with the CR-V.  Honda actually makes the top 10 also listing the Honda Civic at number 4 and the Accord at number 8.  This is not due to a defect with Honda but due to a feature on most new vehicles being exploited.

The report by the Équité Association, a Canadian company that investigates crime and insurance fraud, identifies your car’s OBD port as the point of exploitation.

The OBD (On Board Diagnostic) port is a feature present on almost all newer cars made since about 2001.  This port is used when you get a smog test, run a diagnostic on your vehicle, or install equipment to give you additional information on the operation of your car.  Thieves have specialized equipment which can plug into this port and recreate your key fob.  This means that the thief can start and drive your car without ever having the original key.

This primarily affects cars with a push to start ignition.  Cars that use a key based ignition lock are more secure.

A method to secure your car is to get an OBD lock.  This is a device that blocks access to the port.  While a thief can still break into your car, they would have to waste a lot of time getting through the lock.

The second thing the bad guys are doing happens when you park your car in a public place and walk away from it.  Most newer cars have a remote key fob that you can use to lock and unlock your car from a distance.   You might part and walk into a shopping center and think, “Did I lock my car?”   You push the button and hear your horn in the distance.

The bad guys hear that too.  They have equipment that monitors for when you use your remote.  The remote sends a signal to the car and they can intercept and copy that signal.  With it they can then unlock your car and know that you are in the store.

The solutions to this problem would require you to manually lock your car to completely avoid it.  This would, of course, remove the convenience of the remote.   The alternative is to lock your car when you get out but don’t do so from a distance.  Being there may make it less likely that the would be thief would react.   You can also place your keyfob in a faraday cage while you are not using it to block any signals.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2013. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw