Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The “Smart Key” is not all that foolproof

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How the “smart key” (which uses RFID), like other anti-theft measures before it, has been figured out by car thieves:

Two years ago, my white 2003 Honda Civic – which my wife and I had affectionately named Honky – disappeared from the street in front of our San Francisco home. It has a transponder, and all three of our keys were accounted for (including the spare valet key). Police were polite but not much help; they speculated that thieves had towed the car away or hoisted it onto a flatbed truck and broken it down for parts.

But Honky materialized two weeks later on a side street near the ocean. It was out of gas and littered with cigarette butts and pirated Pantera CDs, but otherwise undamaged. The ignition cylinder was intact, and our keys still worked. The car was a living, gas-sipping rebuke of modern antitheft technology.

Mystified, I wrote up my experience for Newsweek’s Web site in early 2004. I figured that would be the end of the story, but I got hundreds of emails from people with similar tales. I’m still getting them – type “stolen car” into Google and my article is in the top 20.

The most stirring notes were from those who got spurned by their insurance companies. John Hutton, an architect from Fairfax, Virginia, lost his Acura RSX last fall and was reimbursed only after six months of aggressive wrangling with Geico. “The inspector treated me like I was a liar and a criminal,” Hutton says. “It all kept going back to the transponder system and their belief that ‘You can’t steal it! You can’t steal it!’” Sally Nguyen’s Acura TL went AWOL last New Year’s Eve and was later found gutted and submerged in the Sacramento River. When an investigator from her insurance company, Esurance, dropped by her house, he left a business card on which he’d scrawled, “Regarding your ‘stolen’ Acura.” Six months later, Esurance denied the claim, citing her car’s security system. Esurance wouldn’t talk to me about her case. Mohammad Awan lost his 2002 Ford Explorer last year; his son wrote to tell me that his insurer, Progressive, felt the existence of a transponder system – plus other “red flags,” like Awan’s outstanding debt – amounted to enough evidence to deny the claim. “Your vehicle is equipped with an immobilizing transponder system which will not allow it to start without the use of a proper transponder key,” read the denial-of-claim letter.

Read the entire article. The secret sequence on the emergency brake is particularly interesting…

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2006 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Technology

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