Tesla Just Added “PIN to Drive”, “Improved Cryptography” to Key Fob Security

Tesla-Model-S-Key-Fob Security

Teslas are notoriously difficult to steal. And even when they’re stolen, the recovery rate for a Tesla EV is much higher than most other vehicles because of always-on GPS and other security features. The company has now added one more major feature and enhanced cryptography for its key fob.

The first feature is called “PIN to Drive” and should be self-explanatory. It’s an additional step to go through before you can drive the car, but enabling a PIN by Controls -> Safety and Security -> PIN to Drive and then setting a secret PIN will protect your Model S and Model X from being driven away even if the thief manages to somehow get into the car.

Tesla has also improved the cryptography on the key fob on Model S. It’s a little vague in the release notes because it simply says “added support for improved cryptography in our key fobs for Model S to guard against other attacks.” We hope that means they’ve brought in support for stronger encryption algorithms or SSH key pairs to prevent the key fob signal for passive entry from being “hijacked” and used to unlock the vehicle.

The “other attacks” presumably refer to relay attacks, which are quite common in Europe; and there are now cheap tools to help relay the signal from the fob to the car even when the driver is far away. Basically, it fools the car into thinking the driver is near and opening the door using the passive entry feature. The safer thing would be to disable passive entry, of course, but we are of the opinion that technology should enhance our experience, not complicate it further. Enhanced key fob security is great, but if you want to disable it, just go to Controls -> Settings -> Doors & Locks -> Passive Entry -> OFF.

Security is something Tesla has always been conscious about for its EVs, which is why Tesla has been known as the “Least Stolen Car” in past reports. The year that report was published, Honda Accord was the most stolen, and all of them were pre-2008, when Honda added anti-theft engine demobilizers.

That Tesla is one of the most secure cars to own is a fact attested to by its average theft rate of 0.15 per thousand. The overall average is 3.51 per thousand. With Tesla adding new features and enhanced security for key fobs, they’re setting the bar even higher for other automakers to attain to.