A spate of vehicle thefts exploiting keyless entry systems has led to Thatcham Research – the motor insurers’ automotive research centre – to issue new security advice to drivers.
A ‘transmitter relay’ attack resulting in the theft of a car, which has been highlighted in the media as the incident was caught on CCTV, exploited vulnerability in the vehicle’s keyless entry system, with criminals amplifying or capturing the signal from a keyless or ‘smart’ fob.
Keyless fobs, which should not be confused with standard remote fobs, allow drivers to easily open and start their vehicle without pressing the fob or even having to remove it from their pocket.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said: “Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals. Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow our simple security steps. We are working closely with the police and vehicle manufacturers to address this vulnerability.”
Thatcham Research security tips for drivers with keyless entry systems are:
•Contact the dealer and talk about the digital features in the car. Have there been any software updates to take advantage of?
•Check if the keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and the dealer can also confirm that, then do so overnight.
•Store keys away from household entry points. Keeping the keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify the signal
•Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in the local neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the police
•Review car security. Check for aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves.