Tag Archives: OBD

Keyless Ignitions: How Dangerous Are These Car Gadgets?

Keyless ignitions communicate with car gadgets called electronic fobs to unlock the doors of a car and enable the startup of its engine with but a simple push of a button. This line of car tech thus makes it a lot more convenient to start up a car since you don’t have to fish your keys out of your pocket to do stuff.Keyless ignitions communicate

The problem, however, is that major questions are starting pop up about their safety and whether these useful gadgets pose a risk serious enough to warrant a long, hard look at their design:

Vulnerable Electronic Fobs

This is where the most frightening weaknesses of these car gadgets. First off, thieves can just break into a car and program a new security key using a hacked OBD (onboard diagnostic) scanner.These car accessories are designed to scan for problems afflicting your car’s inner workings, but the hacked versions target the car’s computer and give access to the crooks to fiddle around with its default settings.This is similar in appearance to the hotwiring we often see in movies, although this requires specialized gadgets for the car in question instead of simply opening up the dash and sticking a few wires together.

Then there is the use of scanner boxes to electronically unlock the doors. These gadgets for car theft send an electronic signal to unlock a car’s doors in secondswithout triggering the alarm system. It won’t allow them to turn on the car’s engines, but it will give them access to your car’s interior to steal stuff or lie in wait – all without any visible sign of forced entry.

Then there’s a report that at least one car manufacturer, Volkswagen, suppressed information about the inherent vulnerabilities in a car’s electronic fob. The fobs for wireless ignition use a transponder that a paired car will ‘identify’ as its own unique match. Without the transponder inside the fob, the car will refuse to start up – or at least it should if things worked according to plan. Three researchers, however, have discovered a weakness in the electronic security features of these fobs. They were able to start the car in under half an hour – a fact which Volkswagen didn’t want to be made public knowledge at the time.

Motors Refusing to Cut Off

In another case, more and more people are dying from carbon monoxide poisoning as their cars continued to run even when they thought the engines were turned off. These deaths have reached the point where class action lawsuits have been filed against major automobile manufacturers.

Many of the newer cars use car interior gadgets that automatically cut off when the fob leaves the car, while others emit a loud noise to alert the driver of the situation. The problem is, older models don’t automatically cut off when their paired car gadgets are brought out of the car. The noises and chimes emitted by other vehicles when their fobs leave their vicinity are sometimes so weak that the sound of an idling engine is enough to muffle the alert. On the other hand, modern engines are sometimes so quiet that some people don’t even know that they’ve left the engines running.

If the car’s engine keeps on running inside a tightly-sealed garage, the carbon monoxide fumes will eventually build up to fatal levels if left unchecked.

The Fate of Wireless Ignition Engines

It is very unlikely that cars using wireless ignition systems will be outright banned from the market. Additional safety measures are being proposed, like mandatory automatic cut-off systemswhich turn offcar engines after a period of idling or enhanced electronic encryption to prevent tech-savvy crooks from bypassing the electronic security measures.

However, owners of cars that use wireless or keyless ignition systems need to be vigilant. Other car gadgets could help enhance security and awareness of the car’s condition, but simply being aware of the risks involved could help prepare car owners should the worst happen.

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