With the March plate change looming, TRACKER (part of the Tantalum Corporation) is urging used car buyers to protect their purchase against tech savvy car thieves outsmarting keyless car entry systems. The technology criminals use to bypass key fob codes – otherwise known as a relay attack - is legally available and easy to buy in the UK and could cause a car crime epidemic across the UK.
“With more and more new cars manufactured featuring keyless entry technology, we are inevitably seeing an increase in used cars being offered for sale with the same benefits. However, motorists may not realise just how defenceless against theft these cars are if not adequately protected,” explains Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at TRACKER. “In 2018, 88% of all the stolen vehicles recovered by TRACKER were taken without using the owner’s keys, highlighting the very real threat keyless car theft poses for owners.”
Thieves continue to update their methods to counter vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems. ‘Relay attack’ devices enable two criminals to steal a car in literally a few seconds. One stands near the car being targeted and the other stands near the door of the owner’s home or office to get in range of the key fob. The device picks up the key fob signal from inside the building and tricks the car into thinking the key is nearby. The car unlocks, allowing thieves to jump in and drive it away.
Clive Wain adds, “Unfortunately, whilst the relay attack technology criminals use is readily available to buy in the UK, it’s almost impossible to apprehend the thieves using them. A number of manufacturers, such as Ford and Skoda, are introducing motion sensors, which will put key fobs into sleep mode if they’re left sitting a period of time, which will go a long way towards stopping keyless car thefts. And whilst popular brands Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai and Mazda are all reported to be working to improve security, there remain hundreds of thousands of used cars on the UK’s roads and being offered for sale this March, that remain susceptible to relay attacks.”
Traditional physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps can help deter thieves and are a good investment to make. However, in the event of a car being stolen, vehicle tracking technology will not only help police close the net on thieves but see a stolen vehicle returned to its rightful owner. It is crucial to understand though that some tracking devices can also be outsmarted by thieves.
“It is vital that when looking to protect a car with a stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) device, buyers choose one that features a combination of VHF and GPS/GSM technology, such as a TRACKER unit,” concludes Clive Wain. “Tracking solutions that rely solely on GPS and GSM signals can be blocked by ‘jammers’, another piece of technology that is worryingly legally available and easy to buy in the UK.”
Unlike other devices, TRACKER’s unique and market-leading technology is resistant to jamming and can locate stolen vehicles anywhere, even when they are hidden in a garage or shipping container, stored underground or have been shipped overseas. TRACKER is the only company supported by every UK police force, with TRACKER detection equipment fitted in police vehicles and helicopters. The stolen vehicle recovery system consists of a covert transmitter which is professionally installed, hidden in one of several dozen possible locations around the vehicle. As it has no visible aerial, the thief won’t even know it’s there until the police arrive to recover the vehicle and make an arrest.