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Are RFID systems safe?

In the late 1990s the first RFID, radio frequency identification immobilizer was introduced to the US automobile market. The first cars that had them installed saw the level of theft drop by 70 percent. These stunning results quickly forced all automobile manufacturers to follow suit.

Today, the incidence of theft of vehicles fitted with RFID has increased from 70 to 90 percent. Automakers and insurance companies alike have complete faith in these systems going so far as to consider them virtually fool proof.

RFID relies on radio signals, when the system was developed the immobilizers were fitted to transponder key blanks. The transponder is a chip which is imbedded into the part of the key that does not go into the ignition switch. The chip sends out signals which are encrypted, a series of numbers of impulses which are broadcast at various frequencies to create an unbreakable code when the transponder key is inserted into the ignition switch. Without the code the car simply won’t start or perhaps the fuel pump will be immobilized so the engine gets no fuel for combustion. When the fuel pump is immobilized, even if an attempt is made to override the ignition system and the car is hotwired, it still will not start. Even if someone gets transponder key blanks and attempts to duplicate the key, it still won’t start because the key has not received the code.

Any car that runs on this ignition system will have an immobilizer which shuts off the power to the electric fuel pump. Even if the car is somehow started without the code, the engine will run only as long as it takes to consume the fuel that is in the line, no fuel will be pumped from the tank. Anyone who makes an effort to steal the car won’t get more than a couple of blocks.

The early systems which used RFID for both keyless entry and immobilization used 32 bit encryption. This meant that when the button on the key fob was depressed a code of 32 impulses was sent. Although 32 bit encryption can produce many millions of possible code combinations, the new systems which will not allow the car to start unless a button is pressed first use 40 bit which increases the combinations beyond ones imagination.

Transponder key blanks for almost every automobile are available online from http://www.keycraze.com/. Blanks from both ILCO and JMA are available from stock.

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