Some of Britain’s newest and most popular cars are at risk of being stolen in a matter of seconds, because thieves are able to exploit weaknesses in their keyless entry and start systems.
That’s according to research carried out by magazine and new car buying platform, What Car? which found it could unlock and start some of the latest models in around 10 seconds.
What Car? tested seven different models, all fitted with keyless entry and start technology. Its security experts were able to break into a number of them within a matter of seconds
They found the new DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige could be unlocked and started in 10 seconds by thieves using specialist technology. The Audi TT RS could also be stolen in 10 seconds – although only when its optional keyless entry system was active and its motion sensor technology had not disabled the keyfob. The recently replaced Land Rover Discovery Sport could also be stolen in 30 seconds.
Car theft rates in England and Wales have reached an eight-year high, with more than 106,000 stolen last year alone. In the financial year 2013-14, official Home Office figures revealed that some 75,308 vehicles were stolen, but by 2017-18 that had risen to 111,999 – the equivalent of one vehicle being stolen every five minutes or 300 a day.
Vehicles fitted with keyless entry and start systems are now being targeted by thieves using specialist tools to capture a key’s signal and relay it to another device next to the car, allowing them to enter and start the vehicle.
However, some new models on sale today feature technology that helps prevent keyless theft.
Manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have introduced motion detection technology inside their car keys – if the key is left untouched, it stops emitting a signal. However, if the key is in a pocket or handbag, and the owner is walking around, the car can still be vulnerable.
Jaguar Land Rover has taken a different approach, says What Car?, introducing ultra-wide-band radio technology on some of its latest models, which transmits a wide range of signals from the key, meaning thieves can’t lock onto the signal and fool the vehicle.
However, What Car?’s security experts could not steal any vehicle which had with their keyfobs deactivated, although this technology is not yet widely available.
Mike Hawes, chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “Vehicle manufacturers are continually investing and developing new security features – including motion sensing key fobs and other technologies – to try and stay one step ahead of criminals, which is an ongoing and extremely costly battle.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new countermeasures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars.”
Some commonsense advice on securing your car is as follows:
- Check it’s locked. Always double check that your car is physically secure and alarmed, when using keyless locking systems. Wait to see the flashing hazard lights confirm it’s locked. Thieves frequently lie in wait and block locking signals as owners walk away from their cars.
- Keep keys out of sight. Leaving keys in the hallway or on the kitchen worktop means thieves can break in and swipe them quickly, before driving off in your car. Put them in a drawer or out of sight in a bag, at least.
- Block electronic key fob signals. A ‘faraday wallet’ is designed to shield electronic car keys from relay attacks. But you could also put them in a metal tin or microwave overnight to protect them from a relay attack.
- Valuables – The simplest rule is never leave anything in your car. If you have to keep items in the car, the boot is the safest place, not under the seats or in the glove box. In the case of sat-navs which are not inbuilt, remove the cradle too and wipe away any suction marks on the window to prevent someone breaking into your car to see if the device is hidden somewhere.
- Add layers of security. Physical barriers can be effective in deterring thieves. Consider adding a crook lock or wheel clamp to your car. Alternatively, a driveway parking post or just locked gates can stop thieves in their tracks.
- Install a ‘ghost immobiliser’. For another layer of protection, add a secondary barrier to your car’s factory fitted immobiliser by having a unique access code to start your car.
To see footage of the What Car? test, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE2Uxxtci-4&feature=youtu.be