The Weakness of Antitheft Transponders

Opinion: Insurance companies treat antitheft RFID systems, which immobilize your car engine, as unbeatable. They are wrong.

Transponder antitheft systems prevent thievery by using a radio signal code (RFID) sent from an embedded microchip in the ignition key to the vehicles onboard computer; the car wont start witout the signal. These systems have seemed impenetrable, but its becoming clear that even this high-tech deterrent can be circumvented.

Many owners who use transponder technology have ended up in a similar position, their stolen cars found months later, gutted and abandoned, with transponders intact. And insurance companies have refused to accept their claims, based on the belief that the engine simply wont start with the antitheft system in place. The insurers steadfast faith in the transponders is misplaced, however, as several methods to bypass the system have become apparent.

Thieves can purchase devices like Jet Smart Clone, which copy any fixed-code RFID chip by ripping its code and imprinting it on another blank microchip for a duplicate key. They can also steal transponders and snatch cars right of the dealer lot, or merely break into car with a jiggle key and use the extra valet key included in the car manual most owners dont know about.

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