According to Wired Magazine, a team of security researchers from Beijing-based Qihoo 360 recently succeeded in pulling off this novel new attack with a pair of transceivers they cobbled together for roughly $22. In layman's terms, the "relay hack" uses the transceivers to extend the signal of a car's key fob up to 1,000 feet. This tricks the car and the key fob into thinking they're within close proximity, allowing clever crooks to easily unlock or even steal cars at quite a distance.
"The attack uses the two devices to extend the effective range of the key fob," Jun Li, one of Qihoo's researchers, told Wired. "You're working in your office or shopping in the supermarket, and your car is parked outside. Someone slips near you and then someone else can open up and drive your car. It's simple."
Now, the cars that the Qihoo team tested their hack on were a Chinese made Qing hybrid and a Chinese market Chevy Captiva, not exactly common here in the States. Unfortunately for us, the keyless entry systems in those cars are made by a Dutch company called NXP that makes the systems in a lot of new cars sold in the United States. Let's hope automakers and suppliers can find a way to reduce the threat from relay hacking and other exploits soon, before all of our cars wander off without us.