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Keyless Entry Thefts - Gone in 60 Seconds

The car industry for many years has been developing the technology being supplied and fitted in new vehicles. From the humble tape deck and alarms & immobilisers to the fully integrated entertainment systems that would rival many computers, it’s clear to see just how far the automotive industry has come.

With all of the technical advancements made in vehicles it has also brought a number of opportunities for thieves to take advantage of. When portable satellite navigation units first came into existence, they were targeted by thieves as they were easy to steal and something that they could sell on quickly with few people asking questions.

Last year we saw Nissan Jukes and Qashqai’s being targeted for their satellite navigation SD cards. Again this was a quick, easy and financially worthwhile opportunity to get into a vehicle and steal what they needed as quickly as possible.

However with the development of the technology in car security, alarms & immobilisers, stealing these items or the cars themselves has become harder to do whilst getting away quickly and undetected. But thieves have become more advanced over the years and thefts now are usually linked to gang related crime. This usually pays bigger as they are looking to steal the vehicle itself. It requires an advance in technology to achieve the financial rewards they are looking for.

A growing number of cars are now being made with keyless entry systems, allowing you to enter your vehicle without needing to have your key in your hand. With the introduction of these features increasing convenience for consumers, there is also an increase in risk that these technologies can be hijacked to gain entry and ultimately start a car.

Thieves are now using specially adapted devices to transmit the signal sent out by your key to another device close to your vehicle allowing them to quickly gain entry. The thieves will then remove the vehicle from the driveway and put it on the back of a car trailer just metres from the property. The car is effectively gone in 60 seconds.

One of the concerns both the insurance industry and the police have is how easy the transmitters are to get access to. Websites such as eBay and Amazon have been selling items that can be used to boost the signal of car keys in people’s homes. 

A recent test by the German General Automobile Club (ADAC) found security flaws in 99% of 237 keyless entry cars. Of the 237 cars tested, only 7 were not susceptible to being both unlocked and started and only 3 models in the Jaguar Land Rover range were not susceptible at all. 

Certain manufacturers have started to tackle some of these issues with the development of intelligent key fobs that can detect if the fob is static and restrict signals being sent to the car. Consumers are also able to protect themselves by keeping their keys in a metal box or pouch lined with metal. This can help stop the signal from the key being relayed.

As with any technology however there is a constant battle to balance convenience and security for those using it. This often results in billions of pounds being spent in research & development to stay ahead of criminals looking to profit from weaknesses in the technology.

Unfortunately until this issue is overcome by the car manufacturers, consumers will likely bear the cost of this type of theft in their premiums.