Over the last two years vehicle crime has been on the rise in Surrey and Hampshire and a particular focus of criminals has been the theft of high value cars like BMW and Landrover who feature keyless systems. Detective Inspector Dee Fielding of Surrey Police recently said, “Keyless car theft is a crime on the rise and something that has been affecting the whole nation. Unfortunately criminals have adapted to the technology now available in cars.”
The different approaches to keyless car theft
Thieves are using different wireless technology gadgets to capture vehicle key fobs’ radio transmissions and over-ride them. They can do this in a number of ways including:
- Signal jamming – here they intercept the key fob’s signal and jam it. This ensures the car remains unlocked, even though you think you’ve locked it. Whilst the thieves may not be able to drive the car away, they can use the opportunity to steal valuables in your car.
- Signal relaying – in this case the thieves’ technology transmits with your key fob and either clones or instructs it to unlock your car’s doors and allow the ignition to work. They can then drive the car away.
- Key programming – every car comes with a standard diagnostic port. Computer hackers have developed devices that plug into the port, boot up a vehicle’s software and then programme a blank key fob. In keyless cars this can be used to start the engine as well as unlock doors.
Taking preventative measures against keyless car theft
There are a number of steps you can take to help prevent your car being stolen:
- Make sure your car is properly locked and keep keys away from doors and windows. Surrey Police recommend placing them in metal tin or a signal blocking pouch which can prevent criminals copying the necessary access codes in the keys’ technology to gain entry to your vehicle. Do test your blocking pouch properly works as some have been found not to offer significant protection. Another effective storage location is a microwave. Microwaves’ faraday cage technology blocks radio control signals and will hamper a criminal attempting to clone your keys remotely. Just remember to take the keys out before you cook!
- Surrey Police also recommend checking your car manual or speak to your dealer to find out if your key has combination button presses to switch its signal off.
- Add physical barriers to your car’s protection such as a steering wheel lock, a driveway parking post, electronic gate or wheel clamp. We’ve recently seen a big interest in electronically operated bollards as well as manually operated units.
- Get a vehicle tracker added to your car. This may in fact be a criteria of your insurance policy. It means that, if your car is stolen, you and the Police will be able to track down its whereabouts more easily.
- Consider adding security lighting and CCTV to your home and driveway’s protection. This can act as a deterrent but also, if your car is stolen, CCTV gives you the evidence to help Police track down the criminals.
- Talk to your car dealer to see if the keyless element of your vehicle’s system can be disabled.
Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, a company that traces stolen cars, said it is important to act fast if your car is stolen as thieves work quickly and authorities often have just hours to trace the car once it’s stolen. “Many vehicles will be shipped to Eastern Europe,” he said, “while police have also found an increasing number of chop-shops where prestige cars are broken down for parts within hours.”
Car manufacturers are responding to the rise in keyless crime and developing new systems. In a recent article, Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, the UK insurance industry’s research body said, “Manufacturers are already working on new systems. A few new models already have set-ups that aren’t vulnerable to relay attacks. The functionality is the same, but they cannot be fooled by relay devices.” If you are looking to purchase a new vehicle, it is worth checking which models give you greater protection. Do, however, continue to take security precautions. As manufacturers develop more secure solutions, criminals will research and develop ways to over-ride them.
Can we help?
If you would like to discuss physical measures to help protect your property, such as electronic gates, safes and CCTV, contact the team on t 01483 429111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org