High-End Keyless Cars Become Popular Targets For Thieves

Criminal gangs have started targeting high-end cars featuring keyless security systems, warned a motoring group industry cited by the BBC.


Photo: James086 / Wikimedia Commons

The thieves are acquiring equipment, generally used for legitimate means, for acts of car theft and to reprogram keys. Keyless ignition and entry typically works for the driver with a key fob, which opens the car and can activates the ignition.

Digital signals, which are emitted by the keyless fob, can be copied with devices available online. Some more advanced thieves can reroute the signal from the owner’s fob to the thief as the owner enters the car, sometimes up to a range of 10 kilometers.

Meanwhile some thieves have made copies of digital ‘master keys’ that can be bought and sold on dark web marketplaces using Bitcoin.

The warning from the British motoring industry group, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), echoed the one made by the US National Insurance Crime Bureau, which said earlier in the year that there was a ‘spike’ in car crime involving equipment that enables criminals to spoof keyless entry.

As the popularity of keyless systems increases, criminals and thieves have been acquiring equipment on the web that is able to programme keys, stated the report.

“The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem,” said Jaguar Land Rover in a statement.

we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem.”

Additionally, the statement said: “This has already resulted in a number of prosecutions.”

The problem has risen to such an extent that some insurance companies in London are refusing to cover new Range Rovers, unless owners have secure or underground parking.

A spokesman for automotive research firm Thatcham Research Centre told the Times that between January and July 2014, 294 sport vehicles and Range Rover Evoque models were stolen in London, while 63 BMW X5s were also stolen.

While it’s becoming harder to steal cars (the UK Office for National Statistics reported that car theft fell from 318,000 in 2002 to 77,500 last year), thefts involving the use of computer equipment to break through security is on the rise. SSMT is rooting for stronger legislation in an attempt to reverse this.

“The challenge remains that the equipment being used to steal a vehicle in this way is legitimately used by workshops to carry out routine maintenance,” said a spokesman, adding that a minority of criminals are exploiting the availability of this equipment for theft.

“We need better safeguards within the regulatory framework to make sure this equipment does not fall into unlawful hands and, if it does, that the law provides severe penalties to act as an effective deterrent,” said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.