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Keyless vehicle crime – Still an issue

Thatcham Research was established by the motor insurance industry in 1969 with the specific aim of containing, or reducing, the cost of motor insurance claims whilst maintaining safety standards.

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that theft, or the unauthorised taking, of a motor vehicle has increased by 5% to the year ending September 2019.

Written by Paul Brown on 30th March 2020

Keyless vehicle crime – Still an issue

Thatcham Research was established by the motor insurance industry in 1969 with the specific aim of containing, or reducing, the cost of motor insurance claims whilst maintaining safety standards.

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that theft, or the unauthorised taking, of a motor vehicle has increased by 5% to the year ending September 2019 and whilst updated research just released by Thatcham Research indicates that whilst progress is being made, by some car makers, other new cars coming to the market remain vulnerable to keyless "relay attack” thefts.

A "relay attack” usually involves two people working together. One stands by the targeted vehicle, while the other stands near the house with a device that can pick up a signal from the key fob. The device then relays the key fob's signal directly to the car, allowing the thieves access to drive away.

The latest research assesses vehicles for resistance to digital theft and to confirm that features, including immobiliser, alarm, double locking systems and wheel security, meet minimum insurer requirements.

13 new cars have been tested and whilst 7 were adjudged to have ‘superior’ ratings for all-round security and the presence of a relay attack , 2 were rated ‘basic’ and most worryingly 3 vehicles were rated ‘poor’.

Keyless technology is present in a number of premium car models and relay attacks have resulted in many such vehicles being stolen to order. This results not only in expensive claims, but also inconvenience to the owner of the vehicle.

Whilst the number of vehicle manufacturers offering relay attack counter-measures with new vehicles is steadily increasing, all new cars with keyless systems should now have a solution to a vulnerability that has been recognised for a considerable time.

In the meantime, some vehicles with keyless entry remain vulnerable to this type of theft and the following measures might help to avoid a loss.

Three ways to protect your vehicle from the high-tech car thieves  

  • At home, store your key more than 5 metres from the front door, as the keyfob’s signal can rarely be picked up beyond this distance
  • Purchase a Faraday pouch. This blocks the signal by creating a Faraday cage blocking radio / bluetooth / wi-fi / gsm signals from leaving or entering the pouch. This is particularly useful for protection at motorway service stations and car parks.
  • Park in a well-lit area, using a steering wheel lock and installing a proper tracking device to your vehicle are also effective deterrents.

Source:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/latest

https://www.thatcham.org/latest-consumer-security-ratings-released/

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