Growing up, the only real method of stealing a car was to hot wire it but those days are well behind us. It seems like car manufacturers are trying to play catch-up against the techniques used by thieves and are always one step behind.
We are going to look at some of the most common methods that thieves use to steal vehicles that have keyless entry systems and keyless start buttons along with things that you can do to prevent it.
Types of Keyless Car Thefts
Keyless systems are actually not very sophisticated at all. In simple terms:
- The fob emits a short-range radio signal
- When the vehicle is close by it recognises the signal and unlocks
The same process is used for the ignition on cars with start buttons.
Relay thieves use wireless transmitters that they usually hold up to the front door or window of a house. This can capture the signal from a fob and relay it to a target vehicle.
A second person stood by the vehicle captures this signal which then tricks the car into unlocking.
A device transmitting on the same radio frequency as remote key fobs is used to jam the signal that locks the car. The small gadget can easily be concealed in the pocket of a thief as they walk around a car park or hidden in bushes by the targets driveway.
As the owner of the vehicle presses the lock button on their key fob, the command is prevented from reaching their vehicle and it remains unlocked making it easy for the thieves to gain access.
Modern cars are required to have a standard diagnostic port fitted which is usually located in the front footwell of the vehicle. Computer hackers have developed devices that plug into the port, boot up a vehicle’s software and then program a blank key fob.
This process can take seconds to complete and after a quick search online, I soon saw that these gadgets can be picked up for less than £10. That’s a small price to pay for an expensive vehicle.
Close Range Testing
If the owner of a vehicle parks directly outside their property, the fob inside the home may still be in range.
This makes it easy for the thieves to get inside the car but still means that they are unable to drive the vehicle away. This is because the fob needs to be inside the car to start the engine.
Even if owners do not fall victim to thieves, they may end up with a flat battery because the proximity of the key keeps electronic systems on standby.
How to avoid keyless car theft
Look and Listen
Don’t assume that the vehicle has locked just because you have pressed the button on the key fob. Instead, always look for the flashing of the indicators and the mirrors folding and listen for the clunk of the locks.
Block the Signal
Always keep your keys in a safe place that is out of range of the vehicle. If possible I would recommend looking into purchasing a signal blocking bag to keep your keys in. These are inexpensive yet work like a charm.
These little signal blocking bags are small and discreet enough that they can also be carried with you when out and about.
Go Old School
Even if a thief gains access to a vehicle you can still make it nearly impossible for them to drive away by using a steering wheel lock. It won’t make it completely impossible but it will make it much harder meaning that the thief will have a much greater chance of being seen and caught.
Install a Tracker
Tracker devices are a must-have in our opinion as it will send you an alert and allow you to follow the vehicle via GPS.
Keep Software Updated
It is important that you keep the software up-to-date. Some manufacturers let you download updates from their website and transfer them to your car with a USB storage device.