Research Reveals Top-Selling Car Keyless Theft Risk

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Jon Smith News

Research by consumer Group Which? has revealed that hundreds of popular models of car are vulnerable to “keyless theft”.

Keyless Car Theft

Keyless car entry systems enable owners to unlock the doors of their car with the brush of a hand if the key fob is nearby. If the car has keyless start-stop, once inside the car, the keyless system allows the user to simply press a button to start and stop the engine.

These systems work by using an identity chip in the fob that constantly listens out for radio signals broadcast by the car. These radio signals can only travel short distances, usually less than five metres.

The Which? Research

The Which? research involved the analysis of data on keyless/relay attacks of tests held by the General German Automobile Club (ADAC), a roadside recovery organisation.

Top-Selling Cars At Risk

The ADAC test highlighted by Which? showed that, of the 237 keyless cars tested, all but three were susceptible to keyless theft.

The 237 keyless cars tested and found to be vulnerable to this type of attack included many of the UK’s top-selling cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus.  Of the top-selling cars in the UK, only the Vauxhall Corsa was found to be safe, only because it isn’t available with keyless entry and ignition.

Jaguar Land Rover’s latest models of the Discovery, Range Rover, and 2018 Jaguar i-Pace, were all found to be secure.

Car Theft Figures – Rising

England and Wales police figures show that the highest number of offences of theft of (or unauthorised taking of) a motor vehicle since 1990 were reported in the year to March 2018 (106,000).  This worrying rise in the level of car theft comes despite improvements in vehicle security aided by the use of new technology.

Less Than 0.3% Stolen

Mike Hawes, head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), is reported as saying that, aided by technology, new cars are more secure than ever with, on average, less than 0.3% of the cars on the roads stolen.

Not The First Time Concerns Raised

This is certainly not the first time that concerns have been raised about keyless security in cars.  For example, as far back as 2011, Zurich-based researchers highlighted how radio signals emitted by a car could be boosted, thereby tricking systems into thinking the key fob was nearby.

Also, in 2014, many Range Rover thefts led to police advising owners to fit a steering wheel lock as a second line of defence, after keyless security had been breached by thieves.

There have also been reports of Police investigating cases of criminals blocking the signals from keyless devices, so that car doors never lock, and of thieves using blockers in service station car parks in order to steal items from cars.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For car manufacturers, there is likely to be an ongoing battle with thieves, and the need for continuous investment to ensure that car entry and ignition systems are as secure as possible. It is likely that this may even require a move into biometrics.

The SMMT has also been calling for action to stop the open sale of equipment which serves no legal purpose but that helps criminals steal cars e.g. grabbers and jammers, which can be purchased online for as little as £40.

The advice from security experts to owners of cars with keyless systems is to keep keyless entry keys away from doors and windows and in a shielded protection case.  This is because some thieves are known to be able to steal the signal to replicate an owner’s key wirelessly, from outside of their house.

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