Statistically speaking it’s getting much harder to steal cars, with the UK Office for National Statistics reporting that car theft has fallen from 318,000 in 2002 to 77,500 last year.
Underneath this trend, however, is the increasing number of vehicle thefts using computer equipment to circumvent modern security methods and keyless entry systems.
Cars with keyless entry and ignition systems have become
increasingly popular on UK roads over the past few years.
Car crime in London is up eight per cent, with the Metropolitan Police reporting that gangs are increasingly targeting cars with keyless entry systems. More than 6,000 cars and vans were stolen in the capital using the technique in 2014, around 42 per cent of all vehicle thefts. And it’s not just a London problem: in the West Midlands there were 3,427 vehicle thefts from April to November last year, of which just over 35% were keyless.
One of the most common methods is known as electronic key cloning, whereby thieves intercept and copy the signal emitted from a microchip embedded in the key to start the car. A number of cars have been isolated as having this and related security flaws (some of which may have since been fixed – if in doubt, check with your car dealership)
Perhaps most worryingly, because the thieves effectively used your key, and in some cases there are no signs of forced entry, insurance companies have been known not to pay up!
Range Rovers have been popular targets for keyless car theft,
though this is likely to do with their desirability, rather than
any specific security flaw.
Keyless Car Security Tips
While there has been plenty of reporting on the problem over the past year, there has been a lack of practical steps to take to actually protect your vehicle, so we thought we’d compile a list:
- Always park your vehicle in a garage if you have one, or in view of CCTV cameras. Failing that, park in an open, well-lit and secure area where possible.
- Fit an alarm or immobiliser, and consider using a steering wheel or gearstick lock. These represent old-fashioned, but highly effective ways of dissuading would-be thieves from even trying any of the fancy stuff, helping to plug the gaps in new technology.
Sometimes the old ways are the best!
- Consider having an on-board diagnostics (OBD) lock fitted. When your car is serviced, the technician will access the car's computer systems by plugging into the OBD-port. Unfortunately, this port also allows hackers to plug into your car. Companies now sell OBB locks that prevent access to the port without a code or a key, locking out would-be thieves.
- Consider purchasing a tracking device to increase the chances of the vehicle being traced if it is stolen. Fitting one could also lower your insurance premium.
- Check in with your dealer for a software update. (Unless you’re fortunate enough to own a Tesla – which can update automatically over WiFi!)
- Don’t forget the basics: don’t leave valuable belongings in your car, and ensure that all windows, the sunroof and boot are shut and locked when leaving your vehicle unattended, no matter how briefly.
Image credits: tweaktown.com, argos.co.uk