Tesla Model S being stolen in Essex, UK using the key fob relay attacks

A Simple method to protect your Tesla from getting stolen via key fob relay attacks

Technology and comfort sometimes come with a cost, Tesla and other cars that offer ‘passive entry’ feature through key fobs are prone to ‘relay attacks’.

High-tech thieves amplify the key fob signal with a device making your car feel that the key fob is near and when passive entry is enabled, the doors open automatically, resulting in loss of your valuable vehicle.

One such incident was recorded on CCTV in Essex, England where two car thieves hacked the key fob signal of a Model S and were able to run away with the car, it took more time for them to unplug the car’s charging cable than opening the vehicle (video below).

Some Tesla Model S and Model X owners prefer to disable the ‘passive entry’ feature altogether by going to ‘Controls > Settings > Doors & Locks > Passive Entry (toggle ON | OFF)‘, this would be the simplest form of securing your car against such attacks in high-risk areas, but if you want to keep the passive entry feature just follow the simple procedure below.

Video: Tesla Model S being stolen via key fob relay attack

Most vehicle thieves will try to steal a luxury vehicle or Tesla while it’s stationary for long times and late night when security threats are limited, therefore most attacks happen with parked cars outside homes at night as we can see in the above video.

Bjørn Nyland, the legendary EV/Tesla enthusiast and the only winner of two next-gen Tesla Roadsters, has come up with a simple method to block your key fob’s RFID signals to the car by placing your key fob in two metal cookie boxes, yes ‘cookie boxes’ (demonstration video below).

The thing to remember here is that the boxes should be metal based and not painted from the inside, so the signals are contained, this is interesting as we can see that if you place the key fob containing boxes very close to the Tesla vehicle, it doesn’t unlock the car.

Video: Securing your Tesla against relay attacks

The older Tesla Model S and Model X are more vulnerable to the key fob relay attacks as Tesla claim they have improved cryptography of the newer key fobs, you can even take your old Model S and Model X key fob to a Tesla Service Center near you for an upgrade.

You can also buy a key fob RFID blocking bags or pouches from Amazon with a price range of $15 – 20, but you need to be sure the product is up to the standard as some RFID signal blocker bags have been reported not working properly.

Tesla Model 3 key fob comes without the ‘passive entry’ and ‘summon‘ feature so a Model 3 is not susceptible to this hack by default. So don’t through your cookie boxes into the bin, keep them at home for the security of one of your most valuable assets.

Iqtidar Ali
[email protected]

Iqtidar Ali reports on the latest happenings at Tesla and Electric Vehicle forefront. With over 1 decade of experience in website development, he's our IT resource as well.

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