Fleet News

Keyless entry blamed for rise in car thefts

Vehicle break-ins.

Keyless entry systems are being blamed, in part, for an increase in car thefts in England and Wales.

The latest data suggests that thefts have increased by 15% since 2016/17, and 40% over the past five years.

Tracker is warning fleets to increase their level of car security as 80% of all vehicles stolen and recovered by the firm in 2017 were stolen without using the owner’s keys.

“We are seeing more and more keyless car theft taking place across the country,” explained Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker.

“It’s fair to say that criminals continue to stay one step ahead of manufacturers and ‘relay attack’ is one method car thieves have increasingly adopted.”

A relay attack involves two criminals working together using an electronic signal relay to intercept a key fob signal usually from within the victim’s home. 

“Cars are being stolen and driven off within seconds,” said Wain. “It’s clear that people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.”

A spokesman from the Association of British Insurers said that criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the entry system by using pairs of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the vehicle’s fob, among other methods.

He added: “The theft risk will be one of many factors taken into account by insurers when assessing the price of your insurance policy.

Wain says that the good news is there are simple precautions fleet decision-makers can take.

“Whilst the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost-effective way to thwart the criminals,” he said.

“Alternatively, invest in a metallised signal blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet, which is designed to shield electronic keys from relay attacks. 

“It’s also worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on the keyless security system.

“Physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps will deter thieves. And whilst investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner. This, plus added vigilance, dramatically contributes to keeping thieves at bay.”

Added security measures include:

  • Tracker system    
  • Steering wheel locks
  • Locking wheel clamps
  • Pedal box locks that encase the clutch and brake pedals
  • Locking driveway posts
  • On-board diagnostic port (OBD) locks – aimed at preventing electronic key compromise
  • VIN window etching – making your vehicle much less attractive to car cloners 
  • Keeping your car in a garage


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