back to article Manchester car park lock hack leads to horn-blare hoo-ha

Vehicles across an entire car park in Manchester had their locks jammed on Sunday as the apparent result of a botched criminally-motivated hack. No one at the Manchester Fort Shopping Park, in north Manchester, was able to lock their car's doors on Sunday evening as a result of the attack by persons as-yet unknown. Manual …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Hanlon's razor

    We had that on our street a few years back with the added benefit of houser alarms registering a jamming attempt and activating in a 30+m radius. The culprit was traced to a duff Toyota keyfob. The owner gave the keys to his toddler to play with, the kid was teething, bit on the fob and some spit permanently shorted the ON button. Apparently there was no delay and no protection in the Toyota fob design. You short the ON and it is ON - all the time transmitting at max rate. Perfect DIY jammer.

    So it is not necessarily a jammer. A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Enough of the CSMA/CD, what we need is token-ring for key fobs...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        Enough of the CSMA/CD

        While the spec for using the frequency does not spell out CSMA/CD, it says that you are entitled to use _ONLY_ X% (under 5 if memory serves me right) duty cycle. You are _NOT_ allowed to xmit non-stop.

        I tried to get that idea through to Ofcom by the way, but they did not give a damn. Basically, that clause which is present for most M2M frequencies (the 900MHz ZigBee band, the bands used by alarms, etc) is not being enforced.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Just because it's spelt TOYota does not mean you give them to your kid to play with!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        Where I live it's very common to see the chavs give their key rings to the rug rats as teething rings. I have seen the keys being launched from the buggy / pram, unfortunately not down a drain (yet) though.

        When will people realize that their keys will give the person that holds them access to their car, house...

        I don't bother trying to educate them. Stupid is punished by nature, quite often fatally.

    3. Goldmember

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      "So it is not necessarily a jammer. A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible."

      Indeed it is. But the Fort is in the shithole that is Cheetham Hill, so a hopeful but ultimately incompetent thief is the most likely culprit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        What I can't understand is how this caused so much confusion. Are people really that thick and panicky? Bloody heel, apparently even a mother was effected......

        I've had problems with fobs in the past so I just used the key. The car is now locked and thieves haven't won any advantage except costing me two seconds to turn the key in the lock.

        What a fuss about nothing.

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Hanlon's razor

        @Goldmember

        Not far from Strangeways (a Manchester prison) I seem to recall.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      Toyota...

      It's obvious that some people shouldn't be allowed to design cars.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hanlon's razor

      "A mummy with a toddler driving a Toyota is equally possible."

      That's why I avoid cars driven by toddlers

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    1) Why does the boot not lock? Are you telling me someone designed a car where the only way to lock it is via radio? Stop buying these cars.

    2) This is why you want (and have always wanted) a physical key.

    3) Why the hell were SO MANY cars affected?

    Radio locking is a convenience, only. That's it. You STILL have to physically walk up to the car to get into it, so stop being lazy and use a proper key when you get there. It can even be an electronic key, just one that has to be physically put into the lock for one of those many 1-wire protocols to negotiate with the ECU.

    There's a reason I stick behind the cutting edge with cars - because this kind of junk is rife. Car locks aren't particularly secure and I certainly don't rely on them heavily to stop whatever is in my car getting nicked - I've seen far too many easy ways to get into a car leaving varying amounts of damage. But I would have been able to lock my car, including the boot, and I'd have been able to walk away.

    Prank today. Viable attack tomorrow. Stop buying this junk and take your car back to the manufacturer.

    1. eJ2095

      Old trick that

      Think the fobs operate around the 430 mhz band.

      so i you wang out static over the frequency it will stop the fobs talking to the cars..

      I got a scanner that can listen to the frequency (yes i have tested it on my self)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old trick that

        so i you wang out static over the frequency it will stop the fobs talking to the cars..

        A $50 hand-held 70cm radio, which you're legally allowed to use if you have an appropriate license, is all that is necessary to jam these key fobs. 433.920MHz is a common centre frequency for this stuff.

        I learned this through first-hand experience (with a more expensive radio). Even though I was transmitting on 433.525MHz (to access Mt. Coot-tha repeater VK4RBC), the 5W signal was enough to de-sense the receiver in the car.

        1. Jedit

          "which you're legally allowed to use if you have an appropriate license"

          Well, I'm sure car thieves will be reassured to know that they're not illegally jamming the locks.

        2. Brian Morrison

          Re: Old trick that

          These sorts of problems have been around for decades, often because the receivers do not have any image rejection and/or are simple super-regens that can be desensed from a considerable distance with not a great deal of power. It was a little better when car remotes were on 418MHz (but not perfect, I was once able to accidentally jam someone's car alarm remote in the work car park with 10W of 434MHz Tx from about 20m away), now they're mostly in the 433.05-434.79MHz range then all it takes is a perfectly legal radio amateur and the really bad designs fall over very easily.

        3. Number6

          Re: Old trick that

          Many years ago they had problems with the local amateur repeater and the 433MHz car systems. Despite the repeater being up on the roof, the car receivers were crappy enough to be jammed by it. There have been tales of MoD Mould repeaters, also in that band, causing similar issues.

          I have no idea which idiot decided that 433MHz, a very popular amateur band, was a good place to put poorly-designed consumer electronics, but I hope their name is high on the list to be put against the wall when the revolution comes.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Old trick that

        433.920

        And yes I have a scanner, good for listening to fobs to see if they work!

        With some they literally fall apart!

      3. Blitterbug
        Happy

        Re: i have tested it on my self

        Cool! How long have you been emitting RF in the 430mHz band? I'm sure there's a scalpel-wielding boffin or two just itching to have a 'chat' with someone like you...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Headmaster

          Re: i have tested it on my self

          Cool! How long have you been emitting RF in the 430mHz band? I'm sure there's a scalpel-wielding boffin or two just itching to have a 'chat' with someone like you...

          Never, because a 433mHz signal would require an antenna that's approximately 345 685 840 metres long!

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: i have tested it on my self

            Not if it was a quarter wave stub. And yes, I see what you did there <grin>

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: i have tested it on my self

              Not if it was a quarter wave stub. And yes, I see what you did there

              Nope, that's for a half-wave dipole. A quarter-wave stub would need a nearly equally sized ground-plane to sit on. You can kludge things of course but the theory does not lie.

          2. Bloakey1

            Re: i have tested it on my self

            "Never, because a 433mHz signal would require an antenna that's approximately 345 685 840 metres long!"

            Yes but that could be wrapped around a rod a few thousand times or he could connect up to the plumbing and use that.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: i have tested it on my self

              Yes but that could be wrapped around a rod a few thousand times or he could connect up to the plumbing and use that.

              Well, if you can source that much wire, sure, but it doesn't make an antenna that's physically that long.

              In fact, it'll be a big inductor of a size big enough to give you a nasty zap of back-EMF should you try to disconnect it from power with your fingers. (And 433mHz is pretty bloody close to DC, better wait for a zero crossing!)

              That amount of wire would pose a whopping big resistance too, my bet is you'll either absorb all the power before you radiate anything, or you'll melt the coil with the heat loss.

              And who would you transmit to? You'd have to find someone willing to do the same with a receiver.

        3. Nathanial Wapcaplet

          Re: i have tested it on my self

          ITYM 430MHz? Anyways - there are many legitimate licensed users of that region of spectrum and car key fobs have zero protection from them, being ISM equipment operating on a basis of non-interference.

          Also, as a previous poster pointed out, saying you;rer only allowed to use a 5% duty cycle, that may be so, but when a device is modified either deliberately, by human hand or by baby spit, that won't be the case.

          Rules are rules, faults are faults and malicious intent is effective.

          Society is to blame for accepting shit products like this a panaceas (sp? I didn't do well in French at school ;)

      4. Pete4000uk

        Re: Old trick that

        Yep, tried it once and briefly stopped someone from getting into his car. You could cause chaos with one of those cheap Beofang or Wuxon radios

    2. Justicesays

      "1) Why does the boot not lock? Are you telling me someone designed a car where the only way to lock it is via radio? Stop buying these cars."

      Normally you can lock the boot from the drivers lock in these cases. However, it requires some obscure left/right key turning to enable it, which no-one will be able to remember without looking at the manual for the car. Probably they disabled key locking of the boot at some point with one of those combos accidentally.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Is it just me then, where every car I've ever owned locks the boot by default when you shut it and requires a key / keyfob / internal button press in order to open it?

        Why the hell would you want the boot unlocked at any point except when you're standing behind it?

        1. jeffdyer

          I think it's just you.

          If I'm unloading the car setting up for camping for example, it's kind of handy to be able to open the boot without having to use the key every time.

          And as for "every car I've ever owned", well I guess you're very young as my first four cars didn't even have central locking let alone internal boot release.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Maybe it's the other way round and only new cars do this - I'm in my late 30's, my cars are never younger than 15 years old! I haven't even yet made it to cars with the "new" number plates, I'm still on a T-Reg!

            They have all had central locking, driver boot release (a cable that runs back to front on the car, it's hardly high-tech!). and some have had remote-control boot unlock (but - again - the boot is ALWAYS locked otherwise).

            Don't want to lock the boot? Don't close it. That's how EVERY car I've ever used has worked, so I find it odd that people want to leave the boot unlocked?

          2. Dr Scrum Master
            Coat

            my first four cars didn't even have central locking

            Mine had an early version of central locking: I'd sit in the driver's seat and lean across to lock the passenger door.

            (That's me looking for the car keys.)

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          @Lee D "Why the hell would you want the boot unlocked at any point except when you're standing behind it?"

          To allow your slave family member to unload it while you stay comfortable?

        3. Japhy Ryder

          "Valet Parking" Mode

          I think it's a side effect of a "valet parking" mode whereby you can have the key in a mode whereby you can hand it to a dodgy parking attendant to park/return your car for you without being able to empty the valuables out of the boot while he's at it.

          I once had a Fiat which had this "function" implemented via physical keys as well as the fob. It always seemed utterly pointless as accessing the boot from the interior of the car was a key part of the vehicle's design.

          It was also ludicrously easy to get things out of synch by pressing the wrong button on the fob and generating a steady stream of expletives which soundly jammed any human auditory systems within earshot.

          The only vehicles I've never had problems with had physical keys only and no central locking or other "convenience features" whatsoever. Under such a system, the overhead in locking/unlocking and checking the status of the various locks is a matter of seconds and any errors could only be blamed on the owner, which makes you wonder why the manufacturers didn't just stick with it and save themselves a fortune in R&D while retaining a cast iron "not our fault."

    3. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: Why does the boot not lock?

      Because many people have no idea where the mechanical lock for their boot is. It's not unknown for you to need to remove the rear number plate to find the keyhole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why does the boot not lock?

        and some cars just don't have one at all.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another reason for a physical key..

      I prefer a physical key in the dash because of another reason: it's the only cut-out you have in a modern drive-by-wire car. If the car I want doesn't come with a physical key, the first thing I'll install is an electrical cut-out so I can kill the thing when something goes haywire (probably have the garage install it so it maintains warranty).

      It has already been proven to be perfectly possible to lock up brakes and gears (via hacking from a distance as well as controller failures) so you need an emergency cut-out or you're history.

      1. Fink-Nottle

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        my worry with keyless ignition is that if you nip out of the car and leave the engine running, you could end up unable to restart your car in Edinburgh because your keys are on the hall table in London.

        1. Vince

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          I believe you have to maintain the "key in the area" thing - so the theory being that wouldn't work.

          I have no idea if in practice, the car would stop, moan a bit (like the seatbelt warning in most, but not all cars) or apply brakes.

          Anyone have any real world experience on how keyless start works in practice?

          1. Fink-Nottle

            Re: Another reason for a physical key..

            > I believe you have to maintain the "key in the area" thing - so the theory being that wouldn't work.

            You'd think so, but are some shared experiences on Jaguar XF forum that show thing are different in practice.

      2. Irongut

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        "It has already been proven to be perfectly possible to lock up brakes and gears (via hacking from a distance as well as controller failures) so you need an emergency cut-out or you're history."

        You realise that as soon as you turn the key you will also turn off the powered steering? Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          You realise that as soon as you turn the key you will also turn off the powered steering? Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed.

          Steering assist is only really needed at lower speeds. I want to have the option of choosing between heavier steering or killing the whole thing completely so I can stop the vehicle either on engine or handbrake (which by law still has to be mechanical, but is usually no match for the types of engine I prefer). No cut out, no choice.

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Another reason for a physical key..

            Only at lower speeds - depends on your car. With a 2.5 ton American V8, you always need steering assist and brake assist.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another reason for a physical key..

              With a 2.5 ton American V8, you always need steering assist and brake assist.

              Another reason not to buy one. My 2.2 ton European V8 has no such problems..

        2. glen waverley

          turn off by key

          And on some cars, but probably not modern ones, turning the engine off by key could cause the steering lock to engage. Not a good thing in a moving car

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            Re: turn off by key

            And on some cars, but probably not modern ones, turning the engine off by key could cause the steering lock to engage. Not a good thing in a moving car

            I think that only happens when you actually pull out the key - just turning it to an "off" position will not cause the steering lock to engage. That is, in the cars that I have used, I don't know if this applies to all makes but it strikes me as a sensible safety measure.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          "Using the key as an emergency cut out while driving could be very dangerous indeed."

          But being unable to control your vehicle if the electronics go haywire is OK with you, is it?

          You might lose power steering but it is still steerable - or you could use the handbrake but even those are going electronic these days.

          I really, really, really, do NOT like all the electronics in cars these days, which is why I shall probably hang on to my 14 year old car as long as possible. It has enough electronics for my liking, mostly for making hte engine more efficient.

      3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        I was just wondering how unsafe it all seemed. And just pulling the battery out is no security I take it?

      4. Whit.I.Are

        Re: Another reason for a physical key..

        >>If the car I want doesn't come with a physical key, the first thing I'll install is an electrical cut-out so I can kill the thing when something goes haywire

        Paranoid?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason for a physical key..

          Paranoid?

          I've been working with computers long enough to ensure there's always a backup, especially when that computer has the potential of killing me if it goes haywire.

          In my opinion, SkyNet will happen the moment someone comes up with the idea of hardwiring it into the power grid. As long as we ensure computers have plugs, A.I won't worry me :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While I understand your sentiment, I would hardly call a remote key fob cutting edge.

    6. Alien8n Silver badge

      Renault

      My Renault Laguna has a dodgy fob, to lock the car you have to lean in the back seat, hit the central locking switch in the centre console and then exit via the back door. Unlocking is via the passenger door using the emergency key, leaning in and hitting unlock on the central locking switch (the key only unlocks the passenger door, not the other doors). However it does come with an excellent anti-theft device. A Renault badge...

    7. andy gibson

      using keys in locks

      As a P/T mechanic one of the most common call outs I get is "remote fob not working - can't get in with key because lock is stiff as its never used or I never tested it when I bought the car". I'm pretty much old school and put a drop or two of oil into the lock every six months and routinely use the key once every month or so.

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: a drop or two of oil into the lock every six months

        I thought you were only supposed to use dry lube in locks.

    8. VinceH Silver badge

      "Why does the boot not lock? Are you telling me someone designed a car where the only way to lock it is via radio? Stop buying these cars."

      Quite so. As I said only a couple of weeks ago:

      "I have a remote lock on my car (unsurprisingly) - but the key also works.

      The remote lock doesn't because the battery has run out of juice. I've not bothered to put a new one in because the key also works.

      And here's the thing: It's not a major inconvenience to have to put the key in the lock to unlock it - because if I need to unlock it, I'm going to the car anyway. It's not as though I ever walk past my car and think "it'll be handy if I can unlock the car now, without going over to it."

      Simple, mechanical central locking. First turn of the key unlocks the drivers door. Second turn opens the boot. One turn locks all - and there is also a lock/unlock button on the central console.

      Had I been at that car park and saw what was happening, I'd have chuckled, then carried on with my day - happy in the knowledge that my 'dinosaur attitudes' (as they have been described a few times lately) have been validated.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        "Had I been at that car park and saw what was happening, I'd have chuckled, then carried on with my day - happy in the knowledge that my 'dinosaur attitudes' (as they have been described a few times lately) have been validated."

        Hear, hear! There's nothing in my car that can be affected wirelessly (well, except the stereo but that's not exactly mission critical) - central locking via a good old-fashioned un-chipped physical key works just fine, and yes it does lock the boot too. Who knew schadenfreude can be such a warm, fuzzy feeling...

    9. Doogs
      1. Pookietoo

        Re: http://happy254.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/bean.jpg

        You beat me to it.

    10. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      @Lee D

      I find the radio key very convenient for opening my car in a dark garage.

    11. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Push the 'Lock" button on the door panel

      1) Make sure you're holding the key in your hand

      2) Reach over and press the 'Lock' button on the inside of the door

      3) Make really sure you've got the key, not left it inside the car

      4) Slam door closed

      5) Confirm you've still got the key

      6) Walk around and jiggle the door and trunk handles to make sure they're locked

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Push the 'Lock" button on the door panel

        JeffyPoooh, you must have a very old car. My 1993 BMW 525tds will unlock the driver door automatically when you try to slam it with lock "button" pressed down. To save you steps 1,3 and 5, I suppose.

        1. DaveDaveDave

          Re: Push the 'Lock" button on the door panel

          " My 1993 BMW 525tds will unlock the driver door automatically when you try to slam it with lock "button" pressed down."

          I'm not sure if it's mandatory, but it's long been standard for cars to do that. You have to pull up the outside handle while closing it to stop it automatically unlocking.

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Push the 'Lock" button on the door panel

          "JeffyPoooh, you must have a very old car. My 1993..."

          2008.

          Mercedes E-class (W211).

          The key fob also contains a metal key just in case the electronic locks aren't working.

          Million of dollars a day on R&D results in some very well-considered designs.

    12. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Nice to know, so. you'll have one of the older Keeloq equipped cars or, prehaps, one of the older still non rolling code RFID chips as immobiliser/remote unlock then?

      Both heavily compromised and exceptionally easy to circumvent.

      Now, be extremely careful what you leave in your boot.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jumping to conclusion

    Nothing to say that a jammer was used, no evidence, could quite easily have been something simple like a mobile mast causing the issue, I'm no radio expert but a similar thing happened to my father when attending a funeral we parked outside our relatives house and could not operate the keyless car locking system or start the car. Tried everything including a new battery, turned out a new mobile mast has been erected in the local church a short distance away, since then neighbours had had issues with alarms and central locking. After about 30 mins the problem went away and we managed to leave. When we came back the same issue happened. Never had the issue before or since with the car in question.

  4. tony2heads

    When I leave my car

    I always try the boot lock, and use keys when it opens.

    Have a friend with the keyless fob design, but he can be 10 feet away when it unlocks. Plenty of room for distraction & theft by a pair of dodgy geezers.

  5. Gomez Adams

    Had similar some year back when parking my motorbike by the side of a race track and it would not start. Turned out to be the timing loop built into the track. Wheeling the bike back away some distance from trackside and all was OK.

    Another good reason to stick with my fifteen year old car for some time longer yet.

  6. adam payne Silver badge

    Why would a car manufacturer design a boot that can only be locked remotely with a fob it doesn't make any sense to me.

    1. Test Man

      A lot of cars have electronic boot locks now, that's just the way it's going. Mine has, which means that there's no key lock to lock it manually at all, even though the procedure to centrally lock the car is the same as the VW Golf that preceded it.

      My sister-in-law had a Honda with an electronic boot lock too, but unfortunately it developed a problem where it didn't work at all so needed to be manually opened from the inside (by opening the back seats to get into the boot to be able to access the mechanical boot unlocker).

    2. herman Silver badge

      Why? 'Cause it is cheaper, yet they can sell the car for more, since it is a feachurrr...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Check the skies

    There are quite a lot of devices that operate in and around that frequency band, household power monitors, weather stations and all manner of little remote activation or logging devices beyond cars. I believe from this site there was historical mention of a weather station going nuts causing issues far beyong it's expected range.

    This bit is hopefully off topic but sooner or later....

    In other countries they lay out the 430MHz band differently so it is quite possible to buy radio transmitters for long range UAV use that transmit half a watt, combined with off the shelf ham 70cm amplifiers much more, the band for aerial vehicle use is in the UK is (I beleive) 459MHz at 100mW but kit ordered from the internet will need firmware replaced make sure it is not hopping on the 433MHz band possibly at many times the legal power. Theoretically it should not cause this issue as it is frequency agile but given enough "booster" and too little rf feedback knowledge I'm pretty sure it could.

  8. Hud Dunlap
    Black Helicopters

    It could have been a three letter agency.

    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2014/01/nsa-jams-san-antonio-garage-openers.html

    This went on for a lot longer than the article suggests.

  9. Dr_N Silver badge

    Yet Another Scary Car Locking Story

    Where's the subscription based "Tracker" security pitch that normally goes with these articles?

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yet Another Scary Car Locking Story

      Thank you for lending me you cynicism. It is early and I haven't had any coffee to exhale through my nose...

      P.

  10. Rabbit80

    I'm guessing this would have prevented me from starting my car as well since it is a keyless starter button!

    My old car developed a fault with its keyfob which caused the doors to lock followed by all the windows to open fully - this could happen when I was 20 meters away walking away from the car! If the doors were already locked, it would unlock them first, then lock them again and open the windows.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      No.

      The ignition system, is on a separate RFID type system.

    2. Test Man

      "My old car developed a fault with its keyfob which caused the doors to lock followed by all the windows to open fully"

      You sure this was down to the keyfob? IIRC VW Group cars (SEAT, Golfs, etc.) can do that by putting the key into the driver's side, and then turning and holding the key one way.

      1. /dev/null

        "You sure this was down to the keyfob? IIRC VW Group cars (SEAT, Golfs, etc.) can do that by putting the key into the driver's side, and then turning and holding the key one way."

        VW remote locking fobs work the same way - holding the button down has the same effect as turning and holding the key. As I proved when I found my car's windows down one morning after I had been crawling about under the floorboards with the car key in my pocket the previous evening...

      2. Rabbit80

        "You sure this was down to the keyfob? IIRC VW Group cars (SEAT, Golfs, etc.) can do that by putting the key into the driver's side, and then turning and holding the key one way."

        Dead sure, I eliminated the problem by removing the battery from the fob and eventually got a replacement - it was a 52 plate Ford Focus.

      3. Bloakey1

        Hmmmm. I have an Eos and a Passat. Holding down the open button opens the doors and then lowers the windows. Perhaps that fob has got it's knickers in a twist. My Freelander and 94 Tigra work in an easier way with just a key although the Freelander has an optional fob for opening things.

        Now do not get me talking about electronic parking breaks or should that be brakes? (no handle just a button)

    3. herman Silver badge

      Opening the windows is a cost saving measure. That way, a petty thief doesn't need to break one to get in and steal your parking change.

  11. Not Fred31

    "The attack was probably carried out using a £30 jamming device bought over the internet. "

    Did you mean that attacks of this sort can be carried out by jamming devices which are available for as little as £30 on the internet? If you did, maybe you could have said that - otherwise it looks like questionable hypothesis layered on questionable hypothesis.

  12. Refugee from Windows

    Down the pub

    There's a boozer in West Yorkshire that also hosts the local amateur repeater. When it's in use it's been known to desense car receivers as they have awful SAW type direct conversion receivers (cheap) and a signal 600kHz away from it causes problems.

    You could always upgrade to Mr Bean type locks.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Down the pub

      "You could always upgrade to Mr Bean type locks."

      Not really, the Bean car security system requires another action to work as designed, and steering wheels are too heavy these days to carry around with you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Down the pub

        Not really, the Bean car security system requires another action to work as designed, and steering wheels are too heavy these days to carry around with you.

        …and it won't stop the crims anyway:

        http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-23/driver-charged-over-car-with-no-steering-wheel/4837680

  13. jake Silver badge

    About a billion years ago ...

    ... in Internet time, anyway, call it roughly 1985 ... a friend of mine & I applied a 10Mhz digital storage scope to a simple Garage Door opener. After eyeballing the output, we managed to build a Universal garage door opener from parts in my garage. One push of a button would open most garage doors within a couple minutes. It was basically a war-dialer, but at the right radio frequency.

    I learned to pick locks before I was a teenager. It's not exactly rocket science ... and a handy skill to add to your tool collection. It's not illegal, either, contrary to popular belief (nor are the tools!), unless you use the skill for nefarious purposes.

    Locks are built to be opened. If you don't want it opened, don't make it openable.

    Note that I'm not condoning breaking the law. I have never used what I know to illegally break & enter, nor will I ever. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

  14. Ian K
    Headmaster

    I do not think that word means what you think it means

    "Someone else had complete control over all of our cars for well over half an hour."

    The owners were at liberty to drive the cars away, enter them, leave them, and do anything apart from actually lock them. Some little way short of the other's control being actually "complete", IMHO.

    1. Jimmy2Cows
      Facepalm

      Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means

      Standard facebook hyperbole by someone who wants to make something trivial seem breathlessly exciting. She has to get her likes from somewhere... No-ones going to be remotely interested in a story that reads "my fob didn't work so after a few minutes I got fed up waiting, used the key manually and went home"

      Seriously, wtf was wrong with these people that they didn't just use the key? Did they all have keyless entry and keyless pushbutton start? All of them? Unlikely. Collective stupidity more like.

      I had a similar problem with my car about a month ago. Figured it was either someone dicking about with a jammer, a problem with my fob, or non-malicious interference from somewhere. Rather than sit there for two hours going oh fuck, oh fuck, someone has complete control of my car!! I just used the key.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means

        WTF is up with people that can't read an article? No one sat anywhere for 2 hours going "oh fuck oh fuck".

        That was all made up in your mind. They key was used, just not the fob.

        Collective stupidity here as the article says there were clearly more persons effected than one, and did you even watch the video?

        Her page is not a "like" factory as far as I can tell so there is not reason for hyperbole.

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: I do not think that word means what you think it means

        I'm intrigued by the role of the exotically-named Autumn DePoe-Hughes in this incident. Early on in the story, she's just 'the woman who uploaded the Facebook video'. But by the end she's become a car security authority: '"Manually lock your doors or make sure you see/hear the locks lock," DePoe-Hughes advised.'

        Mind how you go.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keyless....

    I've just acquired a new car with keyless entry/starting....

    If you open the car with the fob buttons, keyless locking doesn't work - so you're forced to use the fob, which is sort of handy.

    Also, it can set which doors open when the fob is in range (i.e. all doors, all doors on the same side the fob aproached, or just the door the fob is by). Range seems quite short "by default" as if I open my door, SWMBO cannot get in on her side (or even the same side rear door) until I open the car manually with the central locking switch. The boot is the same, if you're not standing right by it, it won't open.

    The back of the car is also within 6 feet of the front door, and if the key is in the house, the car/boot won't open. My phone being in my pocket between the key and the car also limits the range....so it seems that some manufacturers have at least tried to ensure you can't randomly get in while being some distance from the fob...

  16. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    I'll just leave this here

    http://didriksen.im/2013/09/19/attacks-on-electronic-car-key-systems/

  17. Chronos Silver badge
    Facepalm

    A Transmission Called Malice

    Nefarious purposes? Not so fast.

    Firstly the front end of the receivers in these modern cars are so wide a simple 5W signal anywhere in the vicinity reasonably close to 433.92MHz will de-sense them. There used to be a repeater on the Winter Hill TV transmitter site until everyone who worked there bought a Land Rover, at which point the output at 433.3MHz de-sensed the receivers of their keyless entry systems to the point nobody could unlock their vehicles when the repeater was open. $DEITY forbid they should use the actual key.

    Secondly the FM capture effect means someone with a broken, always on keyfob could potentially jam a whole car park if it is sufficiently more powerful than everyone else's.

    Thirdly it could just be someone cocking around with a Baofeng (£25) with no malice aforethought apart from showing up these halfwits who are incapable of using a physical key. It may even have been a rent-a-copper's comms blocking the receivers if said car park was attached to one of those fancy, overpriced shopping centres they have around there. Sounds to me like yet another case of herd stupid.

    It's highly unlikely anyone would have been deliberately stopping this lot from locking their cars so they could go through the crisp packets, old car park stickers and chocolate bar wrappers in the door pockets or rifle through the Starbucks cups in the passenger floorwell. You'd have to be pretty desperate...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They've been hit by, they've been struck by... a sheep criminal

    Police describe one of the suspects as being of anthropomorphic ovine appearance, and have released this artist's impression:-

    http://img.gamefaqs.net/box/5/1/8/8518_front.jpg

  19. roger 8

    most car alarm keyfobs in the uk are on 432.975 which happens to be in the ham radio band. as previous stated just a simple £30 handheld radio can be used to jam a large carpark.

    also popping up on the market nowadays are drones with telemetry running on the same freq.

    this type of thing has been happening for years now.

    Just jam the frequency with a carrier and the cars wont unlock or lock. Though some cars if you did lock it with fob.Then unlocked it with a key the immobilizer is still active and you cant start car.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > most car alarm keyfobs in the uk are on 432.975

      nominally 433.92, with some variation around this

      > just a simple £30 handheld radio

      or under £15 for the 16 channel BAOFENG BF-888S, although it will need a PC programming lead, some free software and a bit of know-how to set it up on the pranking channel :)

  20. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The future is bright

    for the internet of pranks and LOLS.

    1. Lost in Cyberspace

      Re: The future is bright

      I've noticed that my van fob activates certain doorbells, useful if I'm visiting that particular customer but annoying if all the neighbours open their door as I walk away from the van.

      My daughter thinks it would be funny to play 'remote knock-down-ginger' as we drive down the streets, but I'm not convinced that's good for my professional reputation!

      1. indie

        Re: The future is bright

        My friends' door bell blocks my fob from working! If I just so happen to try and lock my car as I press his door bell, nothing happens on the car, as soon as it stops the car responds to the button presses!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The future is bright

        > I've noticed that my van fob activates certain doorbells

        My fob opens the sliding doors at the local B&Q :)

      3. Bloakey1

        Re: The future is bright

        <snip>

        "My daughter thinks it would be funny to play 'remote knock-down-ginger' as we drive down the streets, but I'm not convinced that's good for my professional reputation!"

        Nice to know that the children of today have the same pioneering spirit as their forefathers.

  21. nematoad Silver badge

    Hmm.

    Just a thought.

    The phrase "Too smart for their own good." came to mind when I read this piece.

    My Mini Cooper S has three manual keys. One for the ignition, one for the doors and one for the filler cap. The immobilser is the only electronic key on the car and that HAS been a right PITA at times.

  22. Brainflees

    It's time for a new IoCK

    (Internet of Car Keys)

  23. M_W

    There is another possibility

    In York there used to be an issue near the Vue cinema where there was a branch of 'Frankie and Benny's' that used to have those 'Your Table is Ready' plastic flashing pagers.

    The problem with the pagers was that the frequency they used to transmit on was also 433Mhz - which meant that most people trying to park their cars outside the site used to suffer with the same issue - they couldn't lock their cars if they parked too close to the restaurant.

    My car (a hateful Peugeot 407SW) used to suffer with this - I really couldn't park it anywhere near the restaurant as I couldn't lock/unlock it. The first few times I thought it was my car being duff when parking for the cinema, and once I got totally locked out of my car. I worked out that if I moved it further away down the other end of the car park it would lock/unlock fine.

    Eventually they changed the pagers in the restaurant and the issue stopped happening.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

    Nothing to do with this article, I just want to say I'm sorry for my lack of taste and things are better now.

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

      Thats OK Jeremy we will forgive you this time

    2. Bloakey1

      Re: I once owned a Vauxhall Tigra...

      I have a few cars, one of them is an Opel Tigra and is a brilliant fun car. Mine used to be a rally car back in it's day and none of it's drivers were ever rent boys or prostitutes despite what Clarkson said.

      Current fave car is special edition EOS, perfect for the weather and roads in Southern Europe.

  25. Graham Marsden
    FAIL

    This was in Manchester?

    Manchester England, yes?

    And were any cars were on fire? No?

    So, El Reg, what the FUCK does a picture of American Firefighters attacking a burning American car with axes have to do with this story?

    Please stop with this "Hero Image" bullshit, it's getting really stupid now.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: This was in Manchester?

      Its in Manchester... I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a car on fire.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Re: This was in Manchester?

        Can't be Manchester, it still has all its wheels...

  26. Ralph B

    Picture Question

    If the incident happened in Manchester, UK, why is the picture heading the article of American firefighters attacking an American car in, presumably, America?

  27. Valerion

    Foreign equipment

    My father-in-law had some wireless headphones he had bought in Malaysia. Whenever he used them the remote locking for my car would not work if parked outside.

  28. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    How does a radio jammer magically pull the key out of my pocket, put it into the lock and turn it?

  29. heyrick Silver badge

    Someone else had complete control over all of our cars for well over half an hour.

    Hysterical much? It isn't as if somebody else was driving around with their cars.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Someone else had complete control over all of our cars for well over half an hour.

      "Proof of concept". Maybe you've heard of it?

  30. squigbobble
    Coat

    Yay for pants old cars

    If you don't have remote central locking, you don't have this problem, though I went as far as buying a car where the central locking is only operated from the driver's door :S

  31. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Fobs - Old Hat

    I don't use fobs or keys, I have facial recognition, I just head butt the door near the locking mech and hey presto, it opens. Now just have to get it to start using my old trouser snake !

    1. Fink-Nottle
      Boffin

      Re: Fobs - Old Hat

      >> Now just have to get it to start using my old trouser snake !

      A microcontroller system, then?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fobs - Old Hat

        A nano tube? :)

  32. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So why aren't the locks designed to lock when the door is closed and only open for a transmission or a physical key ( or, of course, a pull on the interior door handle)? This has all the hallmarks of cheap, bad engineering.

  33. Donn Bly

    Seriously?

    Seriously? You press the lock button on the door (or console, depending on brand and model) and shut the door. I have never seen any vehicle that had electronic locks and a key fob that didn't also have a manual switch.

    Now, I have seen a few models that required a fob to unlock the doors and didn't even have a keyway on the driver's door - but that doesn't prevent you from locking the rest of the doors.

    This reminds me of the jokes about the [insert stereotype here] who couldn't unlock the door to their convertible and get in... when the top was already down.

  34. jonfr

    The 433Mhz band

    The 433Mhz band is licensed as low power frequency band.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LPD433

    It is also common to use 868Mhz for wireless sensor (LTE interference is now a problem in that frequency). I don't know about car keys.

  35. DvorakUser

    My own experience

    Being from the other side of the pond as you guys, I don't often join in the conversation, but for once, I have my own relevant experience to share.

    Several years ago, I had a '96 Thunderbird that had a key fob. One day, having stopped in to get a bite to eat, I hit the button to unlock the doors on my car while I was next to a 2000s (not sure exact year) Chevy Impala. This made the Imp's alarm sound twice before popping open the trunk (a.k.a boot). The Imp's owner - sitting in the outside dining area - looked just as surprised as I was. Before then, I thought that it would be pretty close to impossible for a key fob from one manufacturer and one decade to have any effect on a car from another manufacturer and another decade.

  36. Mr_Pitiful

    We encountered this problem

    There was a large carpark near one of our installations and an empty building nearby

    The criminals had setup a jammer on 433.92Mhz to operate between 5pm & 10pm weekdays & all weekend

    We operate monitoring equipment on that frequency and every day between 5 & 10pm and the weekend, we couldn't recieve any signals from the equipment.

    I ended up sitting outside with a portable radio scanner for 2 evenings to figure it out, we contacted the police and the problem went away the next day.

  37. Mage Silver badge
    FAIL

    No one ... was able to lock their car's doors

    What!

    Even all the people with older cars with purely mechanical locks?

  38. Swiss Anton

    plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

    There was a time when a teaspoon was all you needed to unlock a car. The door locks we that bad. I once saw someone unlock his Ford Escort with the key to his house. The steering locks weren't that much better either. And if all else failed there was also the half a brick method, which still works today.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      *nods* I once opened a Toyota Celica door for a young lady who had locked herself out and the keys in. I used the otherwise useless "fish-hook disgorger" blade on mi' trusty Swiss Army Knife.

  39. Rich Harding

    Schiphol Airport

    Try parking a motorbike (or quite a few cars, apparently) with an alarm/immobiliser at Schiphol. The bike park is very close to the main ATC comms antennas. Now, being a bike, the alarm/immobiliser will generally cut in about 30 seconds after you kill the ignition, so that bit's fine. It's when you come back and try to de-immobilise it that the fun starts. Better learn your override sequence and how to use it!

    Not much fun at 1AM on a December morning, when it's -9C and you need petrol, so have to do it all again on the forecourt a couple of hundred yards away.

  40. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "The whole Manchester car park horn-blare omnishambles raises wider questions about the security and reliability of electronic door locks."

    Reliability? The ones on my car died like 5 years ago. The range started to get very low, and I found with the spare it was very low too. Replaced the battery on one and reprogrammed it, very poor range. Then no range at all (i.e. doesn't work.) I've assumed the antenna on the car module broke?

    Anyway... I guess this shows people are pretty stupid (for standing around because "the car won't lock" instead of locking the car manually), but not as stupid as thieves think (they didn't walk away from their cars just assuming it locked because they pushed a button, as this particular exploit seems to assume people will do.)

    "Cool! How long have you been emitting RF in the 430mHz band? I'm sure there's a scalpel-wielding boffin or two just itching to have a 'chat' with someone like you..."

    Really they have nothing to say, 430mhz is an ISM band; ISM band users are not permitted to intentionally cause interference, and must accept interference from other users. As a practical matter, ham radio rules also prohibit just transmitting dead air or the like too, I would guess even if a 70cm operator was right next to your car, they'd usually only be on the air long enough for you to be "huh, let's try pushing the unlock a second time" and having it work then.

  41. gonzo_the_great

    Why does this not happen more often??

    The 434MHz license exempt allocation that car key fobs work on, is shared with many other services and systems. Amateur radio, telemetry systems, house wireless alarms... The list goes on. So I am surprised that these problems don't occur more often.

    Being license exempt (under UK law) means that no radio license is needed to operate on it, but also that no protection is given in law. It's the same situation as the WLAN bands.

    The recovery/breakdown companies are aware of the problems. Their only cure is to tow the affected vehicle away from the interfering signals and try opening the car again.

    As already mentioned, you don't have to make jamming equipment. Reasonably powerful transmitters are available on eBay cheaply, as walki-talkies, that will (illegally) tune onto the key fob frequencies.

    You can also buy handheld radios that operate directly on these shared keyfob channels, quite legally.

    In the UK, key fobs were on the 418MHz allocation, which was less prone to interference. But OFCOM deprecated that in favour of the EU allocation at 434MHz.

    I suspect that this incident is far less likely to be a of criminal intent. As what would be gained by having lots of angry people milling around the car park. It's more likely to be a school boy prank, or just unintentional interference from another legal user of that same spectrum.

  42. ecofeco Silver badge

    Nobody ever listens to me

    Now about that IoT cloud thingy....

  43. therebel

    The worst thing about this incident is she uploaded the video to her Facebook with the wrong orientation.

    #achingneck

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