This old key unlocks a modern puzzle…

IN this photograph you will see my answer to the car thieves. It is, you will notice, a car key with fob attached. Three buttons indicate its tripartite abilities: ‘lock’, ‘unlock’ and ‘picture of open boot’.

The fob broke some time ago and Pete at the garage drilled a new hole and attached a mini-ring linked to the main keyring. He also popped in a new battery and used electrical insulating tape to hold the fob together, although the tape has begun to fray and curl away.

This old key to my old car is my riposte to the following newspaper headline: “Key-fob security flaw leaves tens of millions of cars vulnerable to theft.”

Ten of millions, but not mine. Or at least not by the method thieves have evolved to steal certain models of VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda. All the cars at risk share the same Volkswagen remote keyless entry system.

According to research by the University of Birmingham, certain models made by Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel and Peugeot are also at risk.

What happens, apparently, is that hackers can use a piece of equipment costing as little as £30 to clone the signal when a driver presses the key fob to unlock their car. (My accidental fingers just typed “to unlick their car” which is probably a different activity altogether). Armed with the cloned code, they can then open the car whenever they wish.

Modern VWs are not said to be at risk, including the top-selling Golf VII, which is free of the fault. So there have been seven generations of Golf, and I still haven’t managed to own one. Seven generations, too, presumably of the Golf GTI, a car I have always fancied.

Our dear old family tank does have remote locking. Years ago when it was only three or four years old, I was impressed by the fact that the interior lights came on when you pressed the unlock button. They still do all this time later, although other electrical enhancements are less reliable, with only one of the windows opening with ease; the driver’s one, fortunately for me.

I usually lock with the key as the alarm has been known to go off for no reason. Or maybe the car just wants a bit of attention – “Honestly, someone is trying to steal me…”

Old cars can be needy like that.

So as far as I can see, our car is safe from the key-cloning thieves. Being 17 years old might also be a safeguard in that respect, as too might the scratches down the side, stripes earned in the street where we used to live.

The old Volvo has featured in this blog on various occasions. Perhaps it will soon be demanding a performance fee. Or at least a wash and polish.

Cars have become more complicated since ours rolled off the production line just before the millennium. Nowadays they tend to be computers on wheels, with complications that put them beyond the likes of the old garage where I take my car.

Perhaps by the time I can afford a new car, an occasionally dreamed of possibility, the car will drive itself, maybe even without me in what we used to called the driver’s seat.

Although I am not sure I would take to handing over the steering wheel in that manner. I don’t think you could call me a control freak, but I do like to keep hold of the steering wheel. That wheel and me have been through a lot, made many turns in the road.

I worry that modern cars are just too complicated for their own good, although that is a theoretical concern, as it’s been a while since I drove a car that was in danger of being called modern.

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