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  • Abbie Jones

Key Fob Hacking: How to Prevent Relay Theft

hand pressing car key fob

If you aren’t aware of what relay theft is or want to be able to find out what you can do to prevent it happening to your vehicle, read Keytek® Auto Locksmith’s blog and we’ll help you out.

What is a Key Fob?

A fob key is the small remote-control device that controlls a keyless entry system for a car. A car key fob is made to be used to secure your car and only give certain people access to your vehicle. They are digital keys that provide remote access, so you don't need to put the key in the car door to open it, as you do with manual locks. It contains a short-range radio transmitter to send distinct codes to a reciever unit in the device. The car itself has its own unique tags that the car key fob also has, so when the button on the fob is pressed, it communicates to the car that has the same tag information which in turn locks or unlocks the car.

What is Relay Theft?

Due to the majority of new cars having keyless entry systems, attackers are using this to their advantage by using sophisticated technology to hack into a car's computer, without even needing the key. In a recent study done by the security company Tracker, 96% of all UK motorists are at risk of having their cars stolen by thieves using relay theft.

Relay theft works by two people working together; one standing by the vehicle that they are planning to steal, and the other standing near the house belonging to that vehicle. The attacker standing by the car will use a trick device to fool the vehicle into thinking that it is the key fob that is needed for that car, and that's when the other attacker standing by the house tries to get the signal from the key fob that is inside the house. Once a signal is received from the original key fob to the trick device, attackers can then lock and unlock the car and drive away with it, without physically needing the actual key fob belonging to the vehicle.

How to Prevent Relay Theft

As relay theft is so common and many people aren't of what it is, we here at Keytek® have put together a helpful list of ways that you can prevent relay theft from happening to you and your car.

Faraday Pouches

A faraday pouch is a great item to invest in for the security of your vehicle. Faraday pouches act as signal blockers, that are designed to shield electronic devices from transmitting or receiving signals. They are made out of a material that can block electromagnetic fields, isolating the keys inside from the outside world, meaning that thieves partaking in relay theft won't be able to access the signals needed for them to gain entry to your vehicle. They offer a simple and effective solution to protect your car keys from being targeted, prevening any unauthorised access attempts, therefore safeguarding your vehicle and personal belongings.

Keep Keys Out of Sight

Keeping your keys in the hallway or by the front door will make it easy for relay attackers to get the signal from your key fob. It's best to keep your keys somewhere far away where they cannot receive a signal, such as being kept in a draw in a bedroom.

It has also been known for car thieves to use a rod with a hook on the end to enter through a letterbox and snatch car keys that way, if they can see an unattended set of keys near the door, making it even more important for keys to be placed somewhere safe and not in reach of thieves. This also applies to house intruders planning on using your house to enter your house.

Anti-Theft Devices

There are many effective anti-theft devices that can be used to prevent car theft. We would recommend Steering Wheel Locks and Wheel Clamps.

Steering wheel locks are designed to protect your vehicle. It is an effective anti-theft device for your, acting as a physical and visual deterrent that provides security to your car and prevents the chances of your car getting stolen. A steering wheel lock is a metal rod that is connected to the steering wheel to prevent it from turning. The lock can only be unlocked with a unique key, so anyone without this key will not be able to drive it. The steering wheel lock works by locking the steering wheel into place with the metal rod, meaning that it is impossible to bend the steering wheel without removing the rod. For more information on steering wheel locks, check out our blog on them!

A wheel clamp is a large metal device that gets fitted to the wheel to prevent anyone from driving it. Even if a thief attempting to commit relay theft has managed to gain entry to the car, they won't be able to drive it as the wheels won't turn.

Install a Tracking Device

Although a tracking device cannot prevent relay theft, it will help you identify where your vehicle is being taken, meaning that the police might be able to track it if it's taken. It's worth installing a tracking device for the peace of mind that if your vehicle is unfortunatelyy stolen, you and the police will still be able to track it down.


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