Fleet News

Carmakers' keyless entry security criticised

car thief looking through window of car.

New research from What Car? shows that weaknesses in keyless entry systems puts vehicles at risk of being stolen in a matter of seconds, despite technology being available that could thwart thieves.

The test found the new DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige could be unlocked and started in 10 seconds by thieves using specialist technology.

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they’ve replaced.

“It is great news that a small number of brands are taking the problem of car theft seriously, but more needs to be done to improve security, particularly of desirable used models.”

The Audi TT RS could also be stolen in 10 seconds - although only when its optional keyless entry system was active and its motion sensor technology had not disabled the keyfob.

The recently replaced Land Rover Discovery Sport could also be stolen in 30 seconds. 

Figures from the Home Office, released earlier this year, showed an alarming increase in vehicle thefts, up almost 50% in the past five years.

In the financial year 2013-14, the figures revealed that some 75,308 vehicles were stolen, but by 2017-18 that had risen to 111,999 – the equivalent of one vehicle being stolen every five minutes or 300 a day.

Vehicles fitted with keyless entry and start systems are being targeted by thieves. Criminals using specialist tools can capture a key’s signal and relay it to another device next to the car, allowing them to enter and start the vehicle.

New ratings were introduced by Thatcham Research following the significant rise in the number of cars stolen using a ‘relay attack’, whereby thieves use electronic devices to boost the signal emitted from keyfobs in order to steal a car.

What Car? tested seven different models, all fitted with keyless entry and start technology. Its security experts were able to break into a number of them within a matter of seconds.

Some new models on sale today feature technology that helps prevents keyless theft.

Manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have introduced motion detection technology inside their car keys – if the key is left untouched, it stops emitting a signal. However, if the key is in a pocket or handbag, and the owner is walking around, the car can still be vulnerable.

Jaguar Land Rover has taken a different approach, says What Car?, introducing ultra-wide-band radio technology on some of its latest models, which transmits a wide range of signals from the key, meaning thieves can’t lock onto the signal and fool the vehicle.

What Car?’s security experts couldn’t steal any vehicle with their keyfobs deactivated. However, this technology is not yet widely available.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Vehicle manufacturers are continually investing and developing new security features – including motion sensing key fobs and other technologies - to try and stay one step ahead of criminals, which is an ongoing and extremely costly battle. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new countermeasures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars.”


The results of What Car?’s security test

Audi TT RS Roadster

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Advanced Key inactive 

Not possible

Not possible

Advanced Key active

5 seconds

5 seconds

 

BMW X3 (2018)

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Digital Smart Key inactive

Not possible

Not possible

Digital Smart Key active

40 seconds

20 seconds

 

DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Standard Key 

5 seconds

5 seconds

 

Ford Fiesta

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Sleeping key fob inactive

Not possible

Not possible

Sleeping key fob active

40 seconds

20 seconds

 

Land Rover Discovery

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Standard key

20 seconds

Not possible

 

Land Rover Discovery Sport (2018)

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Standard key

10 seconds

20 seconds

 

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

 

Get into car

 

Drive Away

Keyless-Go key fob inactive

Not possible

Not possible

Keyless-Go key fob active

30 seconds

20 seconds

 



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