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Protecting keyless cars from thieves

Thatcham company offers advice to stop abuse of 'smart' fobs

Chris Ord

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Chris Ord

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Protecting keyless cars from thieves

A THATCHAM company has issued advice to drivers after a new car was stolen in less than two minutes by exploiting a technological loophole. 

Vehicle safety technology expert Thatcham Research issued guidance to drivers after CCTV footage showed hi-tech thieves stealing a Mercedes C class off a driveway in less than 90 seconds.  

The ‘transmitter relay’ attack seen in the footage exploits a vulnerability in a vehicle’s keyless entry system, with criminals amplifying or capturing the signal from a keyless or ‘smart’ fob.

Keyless fobs, which should not be confused with standard remote fobs, allow drivers to easily open and start their vehicle without pressing the fob or even having to remove it from their pocket.

Chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, Richard Billyeald, said: “Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals.

“Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow our simple security steps.

“We are working closely with the police and vehicle manufacturers to address this vulnerability, continuing our approach that has driven vehicle crime down 80 per cent from its peak in 1992.”

The company, based in Colthrop Way, provided the following tips:

  • Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
  • Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.
  • Store your keys away from household entry points. Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify its signal.
  • Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the police.
  • Review your car security. Consider aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves. A list can be found at www.thatcham.org 

Last year, 91,000 vehicles were recorded as stolen, an increase on the 70,000 reported in 2013. 

Figures revealing the exact number of cars that have been compromised using the transmitter relay attack are not available, owing to the way vehicle thefts are recorded.

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Article comments

  • Happy hammer

    12/12/2017 - 14:02

    I have a special device fitted to my car which means I have a sequence of buttons on my steering wheel/dash to press before my car will start. www.ghostimmobiliser.co.uk

    Reply

  • Justin S

    11/12/2017 - 14:02

    Thats no good when the crook see's you park your car when shopping and follows you with his device, grabs the code , then turns round, walks back to your car and takes it away. Keyless technology was bound to happen, but there are more clever people who work round these things than the people that make them. Guess i'll have to seal my keys in a plutonium vault in my pocket or house when not used. As to what is the problem of a key, my car came keyless and wasnt an option not to be and to be honest, its easy to walk up to the car , in the dark or pouring rain and not have to fish a key out to then stick a key in a lock. In fact my car doesnt have keylocks. Except an emergency one. Cars used to be stolen with screwdrivers in the locks before anyway.

    Reply

  • anorak

    11/12/2017 - 07:07

    What is the problem with having to use a key? Technology for technology's sake with no real benefit!

    Reply

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