Thieves can steal top cars in sixty seconds
Criminals can now use a new high-tech method to open technologically advanced vehicles without even touching them and driving away within seconds.
The method involves using two devices to “trick” a vehicle into “sensing” its entry fob is nearby. This method words on cars where the entry key is read by the car if it is in a pocket or handbag. So the advantage and comfort of never having to hunt for a key has been compromised.
Car manufacturers are trying to come up with a solution, but so far it is proving a case of “cat and mouse”, according to a recent report in the Manchester Evening News.
The new method of theft is considered as contributing to a 44% increase in car theft in the north of England in recent years - twice the national average.
UK police are now warning drivers to be aware of the trend and apparently one of the best ways drivers can prevent theft is by using an old-fashioned gear lock.
For the sake of convenience, more affordable family cars now also get the automatic fob system, which allows drivers to open and start a vehicle without even touching a button.
Thieves, who are often linked to organised crime, buy a relay amplifier and transmitter on the internet. One criminal then stands by the car with the transmitter, while a second waves the amplifier near the house where the car is parked.
If the car’s fob is close enough, the amplifier will detect its signal - even through doors, walls and windows.
The device amplifies it and sends it to the accomplice’s transmitter.
The transmitter then effectively becomes the key, “tricking” the car into thinking the real key is nearby.
The thieves are able to open the car, push the start button and drive away. Vehicles can be taken in under a minute.
Tests by the ADAC, the German equivalent of the AA , “tricked” keyless sensor technology into thinking the owner and fob was nearby. Vehicles from nearly 30 manufacturers were unlocked and dozens of models were compromised.
Police figures show that between October 2015 and September 2016, a total of 4 572 vehicles were stolen in Greater Manchester. The figure for the same period in 2016 and 2017 was 6 564.
The short-range radio transmitter used has to be within a certain range to work - usually five to 20 metres from the car.
A surveillance video shared by West Midlands Police shows how car-hacking thieves stole a Mercedes parked on the driveway of a home within a few seconds - without keys and without even touching the vehicle.
Latest figures, released by 40 police forces, showed 85 688 vehicles were stolen in 2016 in the UK - up 30% from 65 783 in 2013.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, experts in vehicle safety and security, said, “Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals."
He said concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow some simple security steps. The organisation is working closely with the police and vehicle manufacturers to address this vulnerability.
Cars that were unlocked during testing in Germany:
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A3, A4, A4 Avant, A5, A6, A6 All Road, R8, SQ7, TTS
BMW 225xe, 318i, 318d, 520d, 640d, 730d, 740, 740d, i3, Ah i3 94, X1, X1 SDrive 18d Citroën DS4 CrossBack, C3 Pure Tech, C4 Picasso, C4 Picasso HDI, Spacetourer
Fiat 124 Spider
Ford Eco-Sport, Edge, Focus RS, Galaxy, Mustang, S-Max
Hyundai i10, i30, i30 1,4 T-GDI, iX35 Fuel Cell, i40, Santa Fe, Infinity Q30
Kia Niro Hybrid, Optima, Optima plug-in hybrid Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Evoque Lexus RX 450h
Mazda 3 Skyactive, CX-5
Mercedes E 220d, E 220d T-Modell
Mini Clubman, Cooper S Cabrio Mitubishi Outlander,
Nissan Leaf, Navara,
Opel Ampera, Astra Peugeot 508 W, 3008
Renault Captur, Clio, Kadjar, Mégane, Mégane Grandtour, Scenic, Talisman
Skoda Kodiaq, Octavia, Superb 1,6TDi Ssangtyong Tivoli XDi
Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, Baleno, Vitara Subaru Levorg
Tesla Model S P85
Toyota C-HR 1,8 Hybrid, Mirai, Prius, Prius 1,8 Hybrid, RAV4, Verso
Volvo V40, S90, S90 D5, V90 D5, XC90 T8 Volkswagen Golf 7 TSI, Golf 7 GTD, Passat GTE, Tiguan, Touran 5T
HOW TO STOP THIEVES
There are a few simple measures drivers can take.
People with keyless cars are urged to use old-fashioned crook locks for steering wheels or gear sticks; install a driveway parking post; or use a wheel clamp.
Car dealerships may also be able to upgrade a car’s technology to help foil criminals.
Fobs can be deactivated at night in some cases.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, suggested that drivers:
Contact their dealer and ask about possible software updates;
Check if entry fobs can be turned off - and do so at night;
Store keys and fobs away from doors and windows;
Keeping a keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough - thieves only need to be near it to amplify the signal;
Store fobs in a metal tin, but test it is effective in blocking the signal.
Image from a UK surveillance video.