The rise of keyless theft and how to improve your security

27-09-2021

Car theft rates have declined in recent years, but a recent crime spree in the UK shows that modern vehicles with keyless technology are the new targets of car thieves.

Keyless car entry is designed to provide convenience to homeowners, but is now used by organized crime gangs and opportunistic criminals to break into and steal vehicles equipped with the technology. More than 85,000 vehicles were stolen in the UK with a staggering 56% increase in the number of stolen vehicles compared to last year. What is more concerning is that 70% of owners claim they still have the car keys. The keyless entry and engine start functions are excellent examples of innovations in vehicle technology, but relay thefts show us that the exploitation of technology will always be a problem.

A group of researchers from a German company called ADAC used radio transmitters to test which cars are susceptible to relay attacks. The Munich-based car club conducted a study on dozens of cars to test a radio “amplification attack” that extends the range of unwitting drivers’ key fobs to access and even turn them on. A whopping 110 cars from 27 different manufacturers were found to be at risk. ADAC says it was successfully divided into 24 different cars, including European cars like the Audi A3, A4 and A6, BMW 730d, and Opel Ampera. It also found that models like the Ford Galaxy, Kia Optima, and Toyota Rav4 were susceptible, among many others. An ADAC spokesperson said: “We are revealing this IT problem on more and more brands from different manufacturers. This statement clearly suggests that millions of vehicles are vulnerable to theft.

So how do thieves get by with a car without needing the owner’s keys? Relay theft essentially requires a device called a relay box and two people. The device searches for the radio signal generated by the key fob inside the house and increases its range from 15 to 20 meters. One person holds the device within range of the victim’s key while the other perpetrator remains close to the car. Typically, to prevent abuse of keyless entry, the vehicle’s computer systems are restricted and can search for the key signal only a few feet from the car. The relay box tricks the car into thinking the key is too close and allows criminals to get into the car and even start the engine. The whole process takes less than a minute. Modern vehicles are expensive investments and yet a device costing just £ 30 allows hackers to steal them without even breaking a sweat.

It may seem like thieves have the upper hand in this situation, but let’s not forget that we live in a modern age where technology and security companies are working tirelessly to find alternative ways to prevent relay attacks. Relay boxes must pick up the signals from the key fob, so the first order of business is to put your car keys in a container that blocks radio signals. Obviously, securing the keys alone is not enough; There are still skilled thieves who can try to steal your car, and with their experience, they may be able to do so. This is why it is important to insure your car and delay thieves as long as possible in the event of an actual theft attempt.

There are several security devices and systems that can help car owners strengthen their defenses against these tech-savvy criminals. Manufacturers insist that today’s vehicles are safer than ever, but criminals prove them wrong all the time and that is precisely why car owners must take extra security measures to prevent theft. Most car owners tend to think that car alarms are useless and just make noise, but as a deterrent, they are one of the best solutions on the market. It is worth spending some extra money on a high-end car alarm that can delay or completely deter the thief. Steering wheel locks are also great visual deterrents. Cheap models may not have a chance to stop criminals, but a high-quality wheel lock can get even the most skilled thief running for your money.

However, when it comes to car safety, there is nothing better than a vehicle tracking system. Vehicle trackers are equipped with the best features to deal with sophisticated thieves who commit relay attacks. State-of-the-art tools such as geofence zones, motion sensor, impact sensor, and immobilization will ensure that no thief, no matter how experienced or skilled, will be able to get away with it. And in case the worst happens and criminals manage to steal your car, you can track the precise location of the vehicle in real time and report it to the authorities. No other security system or device can offer car owners the guaranteed safe return of their cars and that is why vehicle tracking devices are the best at what they do.

Common sense goes a long way in protecting your vehicle from attempted theft. People tend to be careless when it comes to their cars; they leave the keys in the ignition for quick stops, keep the doors open, or leave valuables in plain sight inside the car. You must ensure that you do not provide a window of opportunity for theft and keep security measures in place at all times. Unfortunately, even the latest technologies have vulnerabilities that criminals can exploit. Cars, especially new models, will always be the favorite targets of criminals; that’s why vehicle owners should go the extra mile and invest in the best security systems on the market. If you don’t, it could cost you an expensive car.

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