Stealing cars:The 21st Century Way

Technology is growing at a rapid rate, with the main purpose to aid and abet us humans in everyday life. Most of the time technology does help and greatly improve our quality of life, but every now and then something arises from technology that can massively inconvenience us.

Professional thieves are now managing to get there hands on much of this sophisticated new technology and turn it against their fellow citizens. With many cars these days harnessing the power of computers, many households have now unwillingly left themselves vulnerable to a series of fast, discreet and effective attacks that can leave your driveway empty. A website called tracker states that 76% of motorists are now susceptible to relay attacks. If you have a key less fob, or any kind of internet connectivity feature for maps, music, videos or travel information, then your car can be more vulnerable to a Relay Attack.

How does a relay attack work?

For a relay attack to be successfully carried out, the scam usually needs two people. One stands near the target vehicle, whilst the other stands as close to the potential key position, trying to pick up the key fob signal. Scarily, your fob can be connected to from around 100 meters away. The device located nearest the house then sends the signal to the second thief, whose location is closer to the car with another receiver. The key is essentially tricked into thinking it is situated next to the car and unknowingly allows instant access to the car.

This video below shows a recent theft from the West Midlands and is all of 1:30 long, showing you everything you need know.

Andy Barrs, head of police liaison at security firm Tracker, said: “As relay attacks become even more prevalent, owners need to protect themselves, particularly since criminal gangs are routinely using relay devices to exploit weaknesses in keyless security systems across a broad range of manufacturers. These tools are readily available on the internet for as little as £80 and thefts typically occur in residential areas, where cars are parked relatively close to the house, especially at night. It’s worth remembering that technology is just one part of vehicle security and more vigilance needs to be taken across the board; this includes car owners, manufacturers, dealers, insurers and the police.”

What is being done to help prevent Relay theft?

The government has released guidelines for car manufacturers that will soon have to provide more security as electronic theft improves in its efficiency. But it’s not just aimed at reducing theft; its part of the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill, which will allow people to insure autonomous vehicles and stay protected. With autonomous cars steadily increasing in technology, its only a matter of time before all cars are susceptible to an attack such as this.

As an individual, there are several things you can do to help safe guard yourself from these attacks. One obvious solution, if possible, is to store your car in your garage overnight keeping the door locked. A manual key will deter most of these cyber criminals as it would require some heavy duty tools to obtain access to the car in the first place.

Several videos on YouTube detail methods on how to prevent your key from being scanned and many of them are very simple solutions. Certain metals prevent the signal being sent to the key-less fob and thus stop it from working. The most noticeable and easily obtained one is tin foil. Simply covering your fob in tin foil prevents and signals from being picked up; you’ll just have to make sure your fob doesn’t end up in your lunch box.