Key fobs are a popular choice for many businesses to control who is allowed to enter their buildings. As with all types of access control, nothing is foolproof, and it’s possible for someone to clone a key fob. Cloning a key fob is surprisingly easy, and all building administrators and owners should be aware of this potential security risk.
Here, we’ll cover what key fobs are, why and how they can be copied, and what you can do to make your building more secure.
What Are Key Fobs?
Key fobs are small devices used for access control. Users simply need to place them in front of a reader to gain access to a building or restricted area. They’re small and convenient, and many people hang their key fobs on keychains.
A key fob uses a radio frequency identification code (RFID). When they show their fob in front of a reader, it reads the code and if it’s an approved code in the database, the door will unlock or open.
They are commonly used in access control and are often preferred by users because they’re simple and convenient.
Can You Copy a Key Fob?
While convenient, key fobs do pose a security risk because they can be cloned. In a similar way that someone could make a copy of a traditional key, they can make a copy of a key fob. In that sense, systems using key fobs as access control are as secure as systems that use a traditional key. They’re more convenient for both building administrators and users because they’re simple to use and program. Administrators can revoke access without having to physically confiscate a key, and users don’t need to fumble with a key and a lock when they are entering the building.
Cloning a key fob is relatively easy and inexpensive to do. You don’t need any special knowledge to clone a key fob; in many cases, it’s as simple as taking the fob to a kiosk. This presents a major security risk for businesses that only use key fobs as a means of entry. Additionally, membership-based businesses such as gyms or country clubs that use key fobs for members to gain entry stand to lose a lot of money in membership fees through key fob cloning as well. It’s difficult to stop people from making extra copies to give to their friends and family.
Clone Key Fob: A Security Risk
Key fobs can be cloned by criminals as well as well-intentioned people who want an extra copy of their key. Sometimes, authorized users will make copies to have an extra for themselves or to give to friends or family. For example, someone might want a spare to keep in the car in case they forget their fob at home. Criminals can also make copies if they get their hands on a fob. Key fob cloning creates unauthorized copies floating around out there that you aren’t aware of.
Regardless of who makes an extra copy of a key fob, it’s a security risk. When a cloned copy of a key fob is used, the access control system can’t differentiate between an original key fob and a cloned key fob. You won’t have any way to know if somebody is accessing your building using a cloned key fob. Later, we’ll review some ways you can increase security if you need more security than a key fob alone can provide.
If you’re concerned that people are copying key fobs, you can deactivate the original codes. Because they are a clone key fob, any duplicated key fob won’t work if the code has been deactivated. Make sure your users know the importance of reporting any lost or stolen fobs so the code can be swiftly deactivated in case someone picked it up to use or to create a copy.
How to Clone a Key Fob
It’s relatively easy and inexpensive for people to clone key fobs. There are two main ways to clone a key fob.
One way to clone a fob is to take the existing fob to a kiosk or have it cloned via a service online. This makes it easy to do, and many companies offer the service for $20-$30.
A second way to clone a key fob is with an RFID copier. This is a small device people can purchase to clone key fobs themselves. To clone a fob, simply hold it up to the copier and press the “read” button. Once you do this, you’ll usually hear a beep. Then, hold the new fob up to the copier and press the “write” button.
In addition to creating a new key fob, people can also clone the fob and create a sticker that acts as a key fob. This can be placed on a phone, wallet, or other convenient location.
Key Fob Alternatives
The very thought that key fobs can be easily cloned is scary for many property and business owners. Fortunately, there are many ways you can make a key fob access control system more secure, and there are alternate access control systems to choose from as well.
First, you can add an additional layer of security to a key fob system. For example, you can add security cameras, biometric access control, or a keypad. You can also use smart cards instead of key fobs. Smartcards operate similarly, but they are encrypted, so they are more difficult to clone. They can also function as an ID badge, which increases security once inside the building.
Of course, you can also consider an alternate type of access control if you’re worried someone will clone a key fob. Biometric access control is very secure; this can include facial recognition, retinal scanning, and/or fingerprint scanning. You can also opt to combine different types of access control to build layers of security.