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Car Remote Signal Jammers on the rise in Windhoek

A brief background
Once upon a time, locking car doors was a simple thing. You got out of your car, put your car key in the driver’s door and locked that door. You would then move to the other doors and press the knob inside the door and closed the door, checking to see if everything was fine before moving away to do your shopping.

Car remote

Car remote

Then came along central locking and car remotes. Life became easy. All you needed to do was get out of the car, press a button on the remote and you are ready to start your shopping. The remote locked all the doors for your automatically. Naturally at first people didn’t trust the system and would occasionally check to see if truly the doors were locked. And in all cases, they were. As time moved on people relaxed and just pressed the button and expected it to work without cross checking to see if the doors were locked. And life was good.

The problems
As expected the thieves and other unscrupulous individuals had conferences and meetings to find a way to beat this new system. And they got an easy solution. Signal jammers.
These keys use radio waves to communicate with a receiver inside the car. The key sends a signal to the car with a unique identifier and a command to either lock or unlock the car. But the wireless communication, like any other radio usage, can be jammed. A device can be used to flood the radio spectrum used by the keys with interference, which stops the low-power system of the remote car keys from working.
So that moment you press the button to lock your car, the car does not receive the signal and you walk away from your car thinking everything is locked and secure. It’s not, and every door on the car will be left open. Thieves can just come, open the door like they own the car, and pillage everything and anything of value they can see. This is scary.

There has been a rise in incidents of people getting robbed this way in Windhoek. A friend of my mine was robbed of a laptop and tablet last week (at Soweto Market in Katutura) so this problem is quite real. There has been a number of incidents in town and in the Wernhil parking. A number of people have reported failing to lock their cars after a number of tries. This usually means there’s a signal jammer nearby. Other people have also reported failing to lock their cars within different parking spots in town.

What to do
Most cars are designed to give an audio-visual cue when you lock the car doors with the remote. This might include flashing the lights or the indicators, or making an audible beeping sound. This indicates that the car has received the signal to lock the car and the car indeed has been locked. Check for these cues. Make sure your car lights up or the car makes some noise to tell you It’s locked.

For the sake of security, despite it sounding retrogressive, just check manually to see if the doors are indeed locked. Lock and check your doors as if you know there’s a person actively trying to block your signal. Do this every time such that it becomes a habit to check if doors are locked. Even if you are parked at your in-law’s house, just check to see if the doors are locked.

If you want to be paranoid, you can just stop using the remote altogether and get used to locking the car doors manually by inserting the key into the driver’s door to lock all doors. Those cars with central locking will then just lock all the doors with no need for transmission of a signal. This method is bullet proof and assures you that the doors are locked. You should just hear the sound of the doors locking when you do this. Again after doing this, just attempt to open one door to see if they are truly locked.

In short try the following to make sure you are protected:

  • Always make sure the doors is locked, don’t assume that the doors are locked because you pressed a button.
  • Check your surroundings when parking or leaving your vehicle, if your notice anything suspicious, move to another parking location
  • Where possible, don’t leave items of value in the car, they attract criminals.
  • Watch for the flash of lights and sounds that indicate the car has successfully locked all doors

This problem is real. Tell your friends and colleagues. Let’s start rethinking this simple convenience and start making sure our doors are truly locked. Naturally I would appreciate it even more if car manufacturers can update this feature in cars and make it less susceptible to interference from external sources. Cars are becoming smarter now, let’s make locking them smarter too.



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