New UWB Security Systems to Counter New Automotive Theft Vulnerabilities

Blog Post created by tengkee Employee on Dec 5, 2016

Over the past decade, the number of vehicular thefts has steadily declined as automotive industry’s security systems have been improved by using various technologies such as immobilizer systems. An immobilizer is an electronic security device installed in the vehicle that prevents the engine from running unless the correct key is present.


However, tides seem to be turning in favor of the car thieves again, due to the Introduction of modern automotive keyless passive entry systems! In 2014, it was estimated that ‘keyless’ hacking techniques helped car thieves steal more than 6,000 vehicles in London alone. Most of the stolen vehicles were luxury sedans.  


So, how has this apparent security loophole come about? The automotive passive entry passive start system (PEPS) was first introduced to improve user convenience. However, issues soon surfaced when it was revealed that the PEPS system was vulnerable to “relay attacks”. Relay attacks are executed by cyber hackers who retrieve the car fob signals and relay them directly with the target vehicle allowing thieves to enter and start a car. Advanced automotive security technology with encryption is ineffective in deterring these cyber car thieves.


To counter relay attacks, automotive manufacturers are using new ultra-wide bandwidth (UWB) passive entry and start systems that provide higher immunity to interference. The UBW PEPS also provides greater accuracy for distance detection between vehicle and key fob. The typical ultra-wide bandwidth signal consists of narrow pulses that help to accurately measure the distance between vehicle and key fob using a time of flight measurement technique.


Ultra-wideband technology is being used by auto-makers to solve theft vulnerability issues of existing PEPS systems.  Keysight is working with automotive manufacturers to provide robust solutions for UWB PEPS testing. To learn more about the Keysight test set used to validate UWB PEPS functionality, download the technical paper HERE.