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70% of motorists put off buying keyless cars because of security risk

Date: 01 September 2015

Major manufacturers have come under the spotlight in recent weeks as a widely used electronic security device designed to prevent car thefts could easily be disabled by criminals. When TRACKER (part of the Tantalum Corporation), the leading stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, asked motorists about the issue a staggering 70% said they would think twice before buying a keyless car, to avoid being a target for car hackers.
Some car security devices are vulnerable to ‘close-range wireless communication’ attacks, which clones a key’s built-in immobilisers. This means cars can be unlocked remotely, without their owners’ knowledge. In particular, it appears that VW and Audi were the main manufacturers affected.
“Tens of thousands of cars are vulnerable to thieves using electronic devices,” comments Andy Barrs, Police Liaison Officer at TRACKER. “This method relates to the microchips embedded in vehicle keys, whereby the thieves intercept and copy the signal emitted by the key to start the car. The fact that so many of our customers confirm they still have both sets of keys when their vehicle is stolen suggests that electronic key cloning could have taken place.”
With nearly three quarters of people wary of buying a car with a keyless entry system, TRACKER asked respondents about extra security precautions. The most popular precaution was an SVR system (40%), with a steering wheel lock in second with 30%, followed by a ‘connection protection device’, which is a steel box designed to cover the on-board diagnostic port (25%).
“It’s encouraging to see that tracking devices are one of the most popular ways people would secure their vehicle, if it had a keyless entry system. Although it won’t prevent hackers or theft, using a tracking device significantly increases the chances of police locating and returning a stolen vehicle. Whilst the evolution of car technology has made everyday life easier for car owners, its sophistication is not outsmarting thieves, indeed it could be making their lives easier.”

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