“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems."
The owners of keyless vehicles have received fresh warnings of a security flaw that makes them vulnerable to tech-savvy thieves, after official police data showed a spike in thefts. More than 85,000 vehicles were reported as stolen in 2016 – 20,000 more than in 2016 – according to police data, which showed that thieves now know how to break even the most advanced security systems.
The RAC, which got police data from 40 police forces across England and Wales through a freedom of information request, said car owners were increasingly using anti-theft devices such as steering locks – a situation the roadside recovery company called ironic. “They were replaced a number of years ago by alarms and immobilisers, which until now, offered better theft prevention,” said Mark Godfrey, RAC Insurance director.
Many of the latest vehicles now available use technology that enables drivers to open cars without turning a physical key in the lock, but instead from merely approaching them or using the remote key fob. It is these vehicles that are being targeted. The figures revealed that more than a third (31%) of thefts took place in London, with the next highest reported number outside the capital being the West Midlands.
“We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems,” added Godfrey.
According to Official of National Statistics data, car theft dipped below 100,000 a year in 2010, when just eight years earlier in 2002 thefts were three times higher, at 300,000.
Clifford, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of car security equipment, told Transport Security World that it doesn’t advise the use of steering wheel locks, as “they only slow down certain areas of attack”. UK technical support manager at the company, Pav Gill, advocated taking steps relating to on board diagnostics (OBD) ports by relocating them or using a lock to prevent unwanted entry. OBD ports give those servicing vehicles access to data that will helps identify problems, but they can also be used by would-be thieves to make copies of keys.
In further bad news for keyless car owners, Gill revealed that thieves could even access vehicles via other means because wires are located elsewhere that can be compromised. “Not wanting to educate the potential thief, but some cars you can programme a new key from accessing the driver’s door mirror,” said Gill.
Backing up the claims of vulnerability against OBD ports, Maple, another security company specialising in securing vehicles, said in its Cargo and Road Transport Guide that criminals were programming replacement keys using a laptop or device sourced easily via the internet.
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