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February 28, 2019

Sign Out, Turn Off, Windows Down.

A different perspective on the use of a Faraday Bag for your car keyfob. Written by Nathan from Restless Cricket

"As a practicing minimalist, I allocate a large portion of my time and energy into ensuring the possessions in my life are purposeful, necessary, and add value to my existence. When I find something new that fits this mold, I like to share the experience in hope that someone else may too find value in what I've found.

I have a problem. I had a problem. After twelve years and over three-hundred-thousand miles, my four-thousand-pound rolling beast revealed signs of temporality. The fire breathing steel beast always oozed fluids through crevasses and crannies I didn’t know existed. Practically every serviceable component on the vehicle had been replaced at least once. The vehicle was failing again, but this moment of uncertainty was different. The vehicle had multiple major components malfunctioning, and the cost to fix those issues didn’t make sense financially. A problem not exclusive to myself. I utilized the vehicle for longer than most keep a job, or a spouse, or both. I drove this car till the wheels fell off, then I replaced the wheel bearings, put on new tires, and kept on trucking. The time had come, however. When we hesitantly decided to purchase a new Honda, we saw an economical purchasing decision. The vehicle had good gas mileage, it didn’t serve primarily as a status symbol, hopefully is a reliable brand, etc. The car was perfect. Almost.

After months of ownership, one glaring problem continued to surface. The key fob was reprehensible. If you hold the unlock button for slightly to0 long, someone decided it would be a good idea to roll down all the windows. Just writing that statement evokes such distaste within me that I can’t fathom how such a feature ever went from concept to production and out to consumers. With the appropriate safeguards, I could see how such may be useful. The ability to disable the feature, a lock on the key fob to prevent accidental activation, or a key fob that simply doesn’t have the feature would be more than acceptable. I wasn’t given any of these solutions. In addition to not having any of the aforementioned, the unlock button (which initiates the roll-down feature) is not recessed. If the intention of a non-recessed button was to make using this feature easier to activate: it worked. I use it all the time. Local torrential downpour? Yes. While sauntering the isles of Walmart? Yes. During a car wash? You bet.

In the beginning, I attributed the issue to my children. A prank on dad while he washed the car. Soon, I realized I was accidentally activating the key fob myself. Whether the keys were in my tight denim jeans or hanging on the key hook by the front door, somehow the feature found a way to be activated. In an act of desperation, I purchased a rubber key fob case. This case does what Honda should have done from the get-go. The rubber gives the key some bulk, it recesses the button to make accidentally pressing it less likely. It works if you're careful, though I wasn’t fully satisfied with this solution. Looking through that products Amazon reviews I can see that I'm not the only person with this problem.

I needed, I wanted something more foolproof. I attempted, without enough knowledge in what I was doing, to print a 3d key fob case which covered the unlock button entirely. This made normal operations overly convoluted, it never worked. While searching online I located a discussion of someone wrapping their keys in tinfoil. Yahtzee. Faraday bag. Why it took this long for me to consider this solution, I have no idea. I repurposed an older faraday bag, a bag intended to block electromagnetic fields, to house my keys while they weren't in the ignition. Communication from my keys to the ignition are cut off. Though the bag was larger and intended for a cell phone, it worked. No more accidental window roll downs. I proceeded to purchase something more specific, something intended for keys. I settled on a few products from Silent Pocket. When the keys are not inserted into the ignition – I place them into a small faraday bag.  I’ve found this to be the best fool-proof method to prevent accidental activation while also preventing key fob replay attacks.

Having used faraday bags in the past, I am well aware that the quality can vary vastly between various vendors. This is one of those instances where you pay for what you get. I'm not just glamorizing ascetic appeal here. No. Products that just don't work aren't uncommon with the cheaper, less known faraday bags.  They're all over eBay and Amazon, so be forewarned. When I received the products from Silent Pocket, I was literally shocked as to how well the bags were constructed when compared to the other providers. Magnetic clasps on the larger pockets, resist to wrinkles, consistent stitching that didn't fail, as well as being aesthetically appealing. In an odd way, they are almost a fashion accessory. In comparison to societies appropriation of smart phones as an extension of themselves, Silent Pocket products are basically their own dignified category of apparel competing with wearables, smart-devices, and internet-connected clothing. Using this out in public didn't spark questions or concern. After lending out the bags to various friends and coworkers, this aspect was extremely important for daily use. They worked, that’s a requirement, but they also blended into the daily accessories that everyone is accustomed to. Handbags, backpacks, wallets, etc. From people looking to reduce their use, dependence, or pacification of smart phones, to people concerned with key fob replay attacks, privacy, and is that smart speaker listening in on my conversations – the desirability of such a product for the general public was surprisingly deep. Products that I feel were once limited to privacy activists and LEA were now being discussed and used by local hair-dressers and truck drivers. The idea, the applicability and necessity of such products are unfortunately greater today than they have ever been. Because of the seemingly non-stop news regarding privacy blunders from social media companies, email service providers, and private data brokers – consumers seem to be on the cusps of a new understanding that personally privacy is important and must be sought and fought for. This newfound understanding permits me to skip my eccentric attempt at convincing you that privacy is important. I believe this is becoming common wisdom.

While you can check a faraday bags technical specification claims through various means, I don't think it adds much today to this particular story. Sometimes, manufacturers provide mobile applications that, quite frankly, I don’t trust. You could put your wireless card into monitor mode and run several tests at home to quantify the performance. You can use something like a proxmark to test various RFID capabilities if you desire. When purchasing a Faraday bag, depending on your unique circumstances, you should confirm that the problem you are solving isn't merely being masked. In my case today however, inserting my keys into the pouch and pressing the buttons to ensure the windows didn't retract was sufficient.  For now.

I found value in the keyfob pouch from Silent Pocket - and I think you will too."

Read More from Nathan Here: Restless Cricket 

 





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