A new trend in vehicle theft termed ‘relay attack’, is allowing criminals to overcome existing vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems.
The new style attack uses a relay device and involves two criminals working together. One stands near the car being targeted and the other stands near the front door of the owner’s home to get in range of the key fob – often left on hallway tables or kitchen worktops. The device then picks up the key fob signal from inside the house and relays it to the car. Using this method, thieves are then able to drive away in a stolen vehicle in a matter of just a few seconds.
Tracker says Car criminals are now far more likely to be computer savvy, than have the ability to hot-wire a car.
“At Tracker, we are seeing more thefts recorded as ‘stolen without the keys' which suggests that electronic manipulation and cyber compromise are on the increase,” explains Andy Barrs, head of Police Liaison at Tracker.
“The new relay attack technique has gained significant ground in the US and Germany, but it’s also beginning to take hold in the UK, so vehicle owners need to protect themselves and their assets.”
According to German research, which tested vehicles from 30 manufacturers, the brands to particularly be on watch out for are BMW and Peugeot. However, using a relay device, testers managed to unlock many vehicles and start the engine, with the BMW 7 Series, Ford Focus, Toyota Prius and VW Golf among the most affected models of vehicle.
Barrs added: “As relay attacks become even more prevalent, owners need to protect themselves, particularly since criminal gangs are routinely using relay devices to exploit weaknesses in keyless security systems across a broad range of manufacturers. These tools are readily available on the internet for as little as £80 and thefts typically occur in residential areas, where cars are parked relatively close to the house, especially at night.”