We received an email from our friend Amy in Bethesda, Maryland. She had been sent an urgent caution message from a friend telling her never to lock her vehicle with the remote because a car thief could be lurking with an antenna, receiver and cloning equipment to steal her “security code”. She asked if this could be true.
My response to Amy was as follows:
This is basically urban myth. The scenario is conceivable, but only for remote transmitters that operate with a fixed code. I say “conceivable” because it would require an extremely sensitive receiver and signal reproduction gear that is not cheap . . . . Plus, it only works for systems that transmit the same signal each time you depress a button on your remote, which is known as a “fixed-code” system. This situation was played up in an episode of 60 minutes or some other news or tech show in the mid-90s. Recognizing the issue, the industry moved to “rolling-code” technology more than a decade ago. Rolling code systems transmit a different signal each time you push a button, making signal-cloning impossible. Since then, except for some Subaru remotess and a few aftermarket alarm system transmitters, the scenario described is not possible. Plus, any car thief will tell you that gaining entry to a vehicle is a piece of cake. No real thief would use this approach.