The Potential Risks Of Digital Car Keys

According to Tracker, at least 93% of vehicles it recovered in 2020 were stolen through a relay attack. This usually happens when car thieves intercept RFID signals from a key fob using a hacking device to gain access to the vehicle. However, the latest digital car keys specifications from the Car Connectivity Consortium use Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology that makes them immune to relay attacks. Unlike RFID signals, UWB technology is more precise in calculating the proximity of your smartphone’s digital car key.

Despite its security benefits, not all cars that are compatible with digital car keys have implemented UWB technology. Some car manufacturers like Tesla, Hyundai, and Lincoln use digital car keys that rely on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Near-Field Communication (NFC) systems. What’s the difference? Digital car keys that use BLE technology can communicate with your car at a longer range compared to UWB technology. On the other hand, if you have a smartphone with NFC technology, you need to hold it a few centimeters away from your car’s door to unlock it. Besides that, NFC technology makes it possible to use your digital car key even if your battery is drained.

Since digital car keys with BLE communicate at a longer transmission distance than UWB technology, they’re more susceptible to a security breach. But that potential security flaw can be solved if your digital car key supports UWB, BLE, and NFC simultaneously. The problem is, it could be a while before most cars are compatible with UWB technology because it’s more expensive to install compared to BLE systems (via Link-Labs). 

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