Auto theft rates have been on a decline for the last few years now, but a recent crime wave in the UK shows that modern vehicles with keyless technology are the new targets of the car thieves.
Keyless car entry is designed to provide convenience for owners but it is now being used by organized crime gangs and opportunistic criminals to break into and steal vehicles that are equipped with the technology. Over 85.000 vehicles were stolen in the United Kingdom with a staggering 56% rise in the number of stolen vehicles compared to last year. What is more worrying is that 70% of the owners claim they still had their car keys on them. Keyless car entry and engine start features are great examples of innovations in vehicle technology but the relay thefts show us that exploitation of technology will always be an issue.
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 automobile club performed a study on dozens of cars to test a radio “amplification attack” that extends the range of unwitting drivers’ key fobs to gain entry to cars and even start their ignitions. A whopping 110 cars from 27 different manufacturers were found to be at risk. ADAC says it successfully broke into 24 different cars, including European cars like the Audi A3, A4, and A6, BMW 730d, and Opel Ampera. It also found models like the Ford Galaxy, Kia Optima, and Toyota Rav4 were susceptible, among many others. An ADAC spokesman told: “We are revealing this IT problem at more and more brands across different manufacturers. This statement clearly suggests that millions of vehicles are vulnerable to theft.
So, how do the thieves make off with a car without needing the owner’s keys? The relay theft essentially requires a device called a relay box and two people. The device performs a search for the radio signal generated by the key fob inside the house and boosts its range to 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. Normally, to prevent the abuse of keyless entry, vehicle computer systems have restrictions and can seek out the key signal only within a few meters from the car. The relay box tricks the car into thinking that the key is in close proximity and allows the criminals to break into the car and even start the engine. The whole process takes less a minute. Modern vehicles are costly investments and yet a gadget that costs only £30 lets hackers steal them without even breaking a sweat.
Thieves may seem to have the upper hand in this situation but let’s not forget we live in a modern age where tech and security companies work tirelessly to find alternative ways to prevent relay attacks. Relay boxes need to 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 the radio signals. Securing the keys alone is obviously not enough; there are still adept thieves that can attempt to steal your car and with their experience, they might just be able to do it. That is why it is important to secure your car and delay the thieves as long as possible in the event of an actual theft attempt.
There are several gadgets and security systems that can help the car owners to fortify their defenses against these tech-savvy criminals. Manufacturers insist that modern-day vehicles are more secure than ever, but criminals prove them wrong all the time and that is precisely why car owners need to adopt additional security measures in place to prevent theft. Most car owners tend to think that car alarms are useless and they only 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 dissuade the thief. Steering wheel locks are great visual deterrents as well. Cheap models may not have a chance at stopping the criminals but a top-quality wheel lock can give even the most accomplished thief a run for his money.
When it comes to car security though, there is nothing better than a vehicle tracking system. Vehicle trackers are armed with the best features to deal with the sophisticated thieves committing the relay attacks. State-of-the-art tools such as geo-fence zones, movement sensor, shock sensor and immobilization will ensure that no thief, no matter how experienced or skilled they are, will be able to get away with your car. And in case the worst should happen and criminals manage to steal your car, you can track the vehicle’s precise location in real-time and inform the authorities. No other security system or device can offer the 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 against theft attempts. 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 valuable items in plain sight inside the car. You have to make sure not to provide a window of opportunity for theft and keep the security measures active all the time. Unfortunately, even the latest technologies have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by criminals. Cars, especially the new models, will always the favorite targets of criminals; that is why vehicle owners need to go the extra mile and invest in the best security systems on the market. Failure to do so might cost you an expensive car.