Security experts’ advice to protect against keyless car thefts

Security experts’ advice to protect against keyless car thefts
Security experts’ advice to protect against keyless car thefts

In the wake of new footage showing a car being stolen by remote access, security experts are urging drivers to take action to protect themselves.

The CCTV clip released this week by West Midlands Police shows a Mercedes being stolen from outside its owner’s house by thieves using a relay box to fool the car’s security systems.

Relay boxes work by picking up signals from a car’s key fob and transmitting them to a second box held near the car. The relayed signal fools the car’s systems into thinking that the actual key is present and allows the thieves to open and start the car.

Regular remote locking fobs, which require a button press, are not vulnerable to such attacks but the increasingly common keyless entry and start systems, which allow no-touch access to cars are.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at security specialists Thatcham Research commented: “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.”

In the wake of the footage, Thatcham Research has issued five tips for drivers worried that their car might be vulnerable to such a theft:

  1. Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
  2. Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.
  3. 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 the signal.
  4. Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the police.
  5. Review your car security. Check for aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves. A list can be found on the Thatcham Research website

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