Police forces across the U.K. are investigating an increasing trend whereby high valued vehicles are stolen by criminals using high-tech gadgets to override keyless car security systems, enabling thieves to steal cars sometimes in less than a minute.
The new vehicle theft technique, which is being termed as a ‘relay attack’, allows thieves to disable existing vehicle security technology, such as keyless door entry systems.
Thieves use gadgets, available to buy online, which amplify signals between the targeted vehicle and new-generation key fobs, resulting in the car security system wrongly identifying the owner of the car being nearby.
The practice usually involves two people. The first stands in close proximity to the vehicle and the second stands near the front door of the owner’s home, relying on the owner of the vehicle leaving their key fob somewhere close to the front door. The relay device then picks up the key fobs signal from inside the property and relays it to the vehicle.
German researchers have identified that certain models of BMW, Audi, Ford, Land Rover, Hyundai Renault and VW were among the manufacturers whose cars are at risk from hackers. This is likely to extend to other manufacturers as keyless technology, which has been confined to more high-end vehicles, is now becoming a more standard feature in car manufacturing and therefore there is a potential for relay attacks to become more common.
Some experts say gangs are stealing cars to order and breaking them up into parts almost immediately. One issue for criminals stealing cars through relay attacks is that once the vehicles are out of range of the key fob it is difficult to restart the engines. This has resulted in cars being driven straight into containers and shipped out of the country.
Troy Johnson, Director, Griffiths & Armour said "electronic manipulation and cyber compromise such as this, is on the increase and we are strongly advising our clients with high value personal or company fleet cars which use key fob technology to be extra vigilant. One suggestion being made to help prevent vehicles from being intercepted this way is to store your keys inside a specially designed cover such as a Faraday bag which blocks the electronic signal. Some key fobs are also now available that enables the owner to switch the signal off".
If you would like to discuss any of the details within this article or have any concerns about the protection you have in place for your company car or fleet, please contact your Griffiths & Armour Insurance Broker or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.