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High-tech thieves are after your car: Here's how to protect yourself

High-tech thieves are trying to steal your car and the Internet is giving them the told and technology they need to do it, but there are ways you can protect yourself. (Aisha Mbowe, NewsChannel 12 photo)

High-tech thieves are trying to steal your car and the internet is giving them the tools and technology they need to do it.

Imagine this: You are sound asleep at home and two crooks pull up to your driveway. They manage to swipe your car in less than two minutes, but they're not smashing windows or picking locks to do it.

"We haven't heard about it happening in this area, but in the larger cities and stuff, yes," Ralph Fuller of Coastal Locks in Havelock said.

It's called a relay attack and it involves criminals hacking the signal from your key fob, the remote used to activate push-start vehicles. Fuller said even though he hasn't heard of the break-ins happening in Eastern North Carolina, the technology out there makes them a great possibility.

"Basically I do all of the normal things that a hacker does, but I've taken an oath to use my power for good instead of for evil," Charles Tendell, a self-proclaimed ethical hacker and mastermind behind HackersList.com, said. He believes criminals have figured out a way to use radio to unlock cars.

"It's typically called a soft defined radio," Tendell said. "They plug it into their computer using this one and another one -- they basically high your signal from your key fob."

The criminals then broadcast it on their device to the accompanying device typically next to the car. It allows them to do the same thing as your key fob.

"Auto manufacturers are trying to do something about it consumers can do a little bit about it but right now the bad guys have been thinking three to five steps ahead of us and its almost time for us to catch up," Tendell said.

Tendell said the trend started in Europe and is now making its way around U.S. cities, with high-end vehicles a top target. However, there are a few things experts say you can do to protect yourself.

"It doesn't have to be anything extreme," Tendell said." "It could be as simple as putting your fob in a metal box or in like a tray or something next to your bed instead of hanging it by your garage."

You could also place your key fob in the fridge or freezer -- the metal from the appliance will block the signal, experts said.

"The way we are doing things now making keys plugging into the OBD port and talking to the computer and doing, sometime in the near future that's going to be gone away," Fuller said.

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