Car Theft Rise Linked to Key-Fob Gaming

An Association of British Insurers spokesman says criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the entry system by using pairs of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the vehicle’s fob, among other methods.

Alan Harman, Correspondent

September 24, 2018

2 Min Read
U.K. thieves increasingly using keyless entry to steal vehicles.
U.K. thieves increasingly using keyless entry to steal vehicles.

U.K. government figures show car theft is up 15% in England and Wales since 2016-2017, and law enforcement blames keyless-entry systems.

The increase over the past five years is 40%.

Clive Wain, Tracker Network U.K. head of police liaison, says motorists need to increase their level of vehicle security because 80% of the stolen vehicles it recovered last year were taken without using the owner’s keys.

“We are seeing more and more keyless car theft taking place across the country,” Wain says in a statement. “It’s fair to say that criminals continue to stay one step ahead of manufacturers, and ‘relay attack’ is one method car thieves have increasingly adopted.”

This involves two criminals working together using an electronic signal relay to intercept a key-fob signal, usually from within the victim’s home. Cars are stolen and driven off within seconds.

“It’s clear that people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices,” Wain says.

An Association of British Insurers spokesman says criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the entry system by using pairs of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the vehicle’s fob, among other methods.

Wain says there are simple precautions people can take.

“While the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost-effective way to thwart the criminals,” he says.

“Alternatively, invest in a metalized signal-blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet, which is designed to shield electronic keys from relay attacks.”

But Wain says vehicle security should be multilayered and not just reliant on the keyless security system.

He recommends physical barriers such as steering-wheel locks, locking wheel clamps, pedal box locks that encase the clutch and brake pedals, locking driveway posts and onboard diagnostic port locks aimed at preventing electronic key compromise.

Tracker has more than 1 million tracking systems hidden on U.K. vehicles and, working with police, recovers on average £1 million ($1.3 million) worth of stolen vehicles a month.

About the Author(s)

Alan Harman

Correspondent, WardsAuto

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