Proximity verification has been implemented in an insecure way in many commercial security-critical systems. These include access systems to vehicles, buildings as well as mobile payment systems.  


A prominent example of a deployed insecure proximity-based access control system is the Passive Keyless Entry and Start (PKES) used in modern cars. This system allows car owners to open their vehicle without removing the car key from their pocket or purse. The car will open automatically when it detects that the car key is close (2 meters) and will allow to be started if the key is detected to be inside the car (a button on the front panel allows the car to be started without the need to insert a key in the lock).


Research at ETH Zurich has demonstrated that it is possible to compromise the proximity verification mechanism and open cars of others, start them, and drive away with minimal effort.


Publication: Relay Attacks on Passive Keyless Entry and Start Systems in Modern Cars 

Media reports: Tages Anzeiger, ETH Life, MIT Technology Review


Company Focus

3db provides solutions to the problem of making secure access control systems which rely on proximity. Proximity verification determines how close two wireless devices are from each other in terms of physical distance.  


To the best of our knowledge, all available systems on the market today are insecure. These insecure systems are to be found in the automotive, buildings, process automation as well as in mobile payment markets. 


In the automotive, as one example, the vulnerability of the current PKES systems not only means a true risk to car owners, but also a tremendous hazard to car manufacturers’ reputation.  


3db’s technology provides accurate distance measurement combined with strong security mechanisms for secure proximity verification. The value proposition for end consumers is a secure and convenient access control to their assets (e.g., vehicle, building). For industry partners, 3db’s technology supports their drive towards convenient and highly secure systems.


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