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The key of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is photographed in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, April 1, 2014. General Motors CEO Mary Barra testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday about safety defects and mishandled recall of 2.6 million small cars with a faulty ignition switch that's been linked to 13 deaths and dozen of crashes. (AP Photo/Molly Riley

Here's how thieves hack key fobs to steal cars without breaking in


Keyless ignitions have quickly become an ordinary feature of cars. But car thieves have quickly adapted to the new technology.

A device called an attack relay unit lets thieves hack into a car, unlock it and drive away without setting off any alarms or leaving any signs of a break-in, our partner at KATU reported

You might think this technology would be hard to come by. But you can buy it for just $17.

Neighbors were certain they had locked their cars the night before and found them unlocked the next morning.
Ginger Burke, Portland neighborhood watch member

Ginger Burke, a Portland, Ore. native and member of a neighborhood watch group, said a neighbor found out her car was broken into. The onboard computer had an error code that confirmed someone was using an electronic device to break in. She said the use of the devices runs rampant in northwest Portland.

How does it work?

Attack relay units vary. Some only work with keyless ignitions. Others cover more varieties of cars. Some have to be close by, but others claim they can open a car from 300 feet away. 

The devices pick up signals that key fobs and ignitions emit. That's what makes keyless ignitions particularly dangerous, since they constantly emit signals. 

I was told that I was losing my mind when I first reported it.
Julie Sheppard, Portland resident

If you're particularly concerned, cybersecurity experts told KATU that metal helps block the signals emitted by key fobs. Some people keep their fobs in a metal box or microwave. Even tin foil can work if it's sealed well. 

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