Modern keyless entry systems are leaving cars vulnerable to theft, according to vehicle security experts.
Recent figures published by the government show that that car theft in England and Wales has risen by 15 per cent since 2016/17, and 40 per cent over the last five years.
And according to vehicle recovery firm, Tracker, 80 per cent of all vehicles it recovered last year had been taken without using the owner’s keys.
Many new cars come with “keyless” entry and start systems. These allow owners to unlock and start their cars without touching the key thanks to signals sent between the fob and car. However, they also allow canny criminals to steal cars with frightening ease.
“We are seeing more and more keyless car theft taking place across the country,” says Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker.
“It’s fair to say that criminals continue to stay one step ahead of manufacturers and ‘relay attack’ is one method car thieves have increasingly adopted. This involves two criminals working together using an electronic signal relay to intercept a key fob signal usually from within the victim’s home.
“Cars are being stolen and driven off within seconds. It’s clear that people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.”
Mr Wain added that while relay attacks are on the rise there are simple steps to protect your car from thieves.
He said: “Whilst the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost-effective way to thwart the criminals. Alternatively, invest in a metallised signal blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet.
“It’s also worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on the keyless security system. Physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps will deter thieves. And whilst investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner.”
Added security measures to help protect your car
Among the methods you can invest in to deter thieves are:
- Steering wheel locks
- Locking wheel clamps
- Pedal box locks
- Locking driveway posts
- On-board diagnostic port (OBD) locks – aimed at preventing electronic key compromise
- VIN window etching
- Vehicle tracker
Mr Wain’s claim comes as motoring retailer Halfords reported a two-fold rise in sales of steering wheel locks and a four-fold rise in “anti-hacking devices” such as Faraday pouches.
Iga Woodward Halfords’s car security expert said: “In-car security systems can only do so much to prevent a car or its contents being stolen. Many anti-theft systems can be easily bypassed and using some simple old-school devices like a steering lock or wheel clamp can be an extremely effective – and visual – way of deterring thieves.”