Fleet News

Carmakers introduce ‘sleeping fobs’ to tackle keyless thieves

Vehicle relay attack graphic

Six new cars have been awarded the top ‘Superior’ consumer security rating by independent automotive research centre Thatcham Research.

The Audi A6 Allroad, BMW 1 Series, BMW 8 Series and BMW X6, along with the Ford Puma and Volkswagen Passat gained ‘Superior’ ratings for all-round security and the presence of a relay attack fix.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer, Thatcham Research, said: “The models rated from Audi, BMW, Ford and Volkswagen not only have strong all-round security but have also made motion sensor enabled fobs available as standard when buyers opt for keyless entry and start. It’s positive news for consumers that carmakers, in increasing measure, are making this fix available.

“The motion sensor fob is a good short-term option, but the goal for carmakers must be to design out the vulnerability entirely. Until then, a fundamental security flaw remains.

“We advise consumers to check how long it takes before the sleep mode on their keyless fob is engaged. Some fobs go to sleep in one or two minutes, others in 15 or even as long as 30 minutes.”

If a motion sensor fob is not available Thatcham advises that drivers should:

  • Consider purchasing a Faraday pouch and using it to store their fob at night. Owners are advised to test that it works for themselves
  • Check the driver’s manual to see if the fob can be switched off completely
  • Store fobs, spares included, away from household entry points

“We urge manufacturers to bring keyless technology to market in secure form and remove from drivers the onus to provide additional security. Closer collaboration on the design and implementation of new technologies is the key to identifying vulnerabilities before they entrench in the vehicle parc,” added Billyeald.

This is the third set of consumer security ratings launched in 2019. Security engineers from Thatcham Research conduct a relay attack test on the vehicle’s keyless entry and start system, while confirming that other security features meet minimum insurer requirements, including certified immobiliser, alarm and double locking systems.

To date, 24 vehicles have been assessed, with nine down-rated to ‘Poor’ having failed relay attack testing. ‘Superior’ ratings for all-round security and for having a fix to the keyless vulnerability in place have been awarded to 14 cars. Only one car, the Suzuki Jimny, has been downrated as a result of all-round security failings, despite not having a keyless entry and start system.



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Comments

  • The Engineer - 07/11/2019 08:01

    Very annoyed that Toyota sold me a brand new RAV4 knowing about the keyless security issues for years and still not addressing it on a totally new model. They have now announced that soon they will ship the model with 'sleeping keys' why not put it on in the first place? its only a change to the key and cost very little to do. What is the chance of Toyota doing the honourable/responsible thing and giving free key replacement to early customers?

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