You’d think that having a keyless car – with only a fob to unlock via radio signal – would make your car more secure, and more difficult for criminals to break in. Sadly, theft of these keyless entry cars is on the rise in the UK. As we increase technology to secure our pride-and-joy, so criminals play catch up, and more and more criminals are now using radio transmitters to perform “relay” car hacks.
Like in the film of the same name, a new Mercedes was stolen from a driveway this week – it was gone in 60 seconds, and CCTV shows it was the latest in these “transmitter relay” attacks which target the keyless entry system.
Car thieves are exploiting a vulnerability in the system using pars of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the car’s key fob, which opens the vehicle when the owner is in close proximity to it. It’s like contactless payment, but for your car.
Thatcham Research, who are experts in vehicle security, has offered some tips, noted below.
Their Chief Technical Officer, Richard Billyeald says: “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% from its peak in 1992.”
Keyless Security Tips
1) Get in touch with your dealer to discuss the digital features of the car. Check for updates you might be able to take advantage of.
2) Check if you can turn the fob off – if you are able to, and your dealer confirms this, switch it off overnight.
3) When storing your keys, keep them away from doors and windows. It’s not a matter of being out of sight, thieves only need to be close to the fob to be able to amplify and hack its signal.
4) Keep an eye out. Watch out for suspicious activity in your area, and report anything unusual to the police.
5) See what else you can do in terms of security. Look at aftermarket devices like mechanical locks for the steering wheel and GPS trackers – these are proven deterrents.
Tests were performed this year by a German car manufacturer to check the European specifications of the biggest manufacturers, looking to see how easy they were to gain access to using transmitters.
They were able to access 110 cars from 27 manufacturers with keyless entry cars.
Statistics on how many vehicles have been stolen using this method are currently unavailable.
One extra trick you can use is to store your keys in a Faraday cage which will block electromagnetic signals being transmitted from the fob.
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