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Theft risk increasing from keyless systems

Theft risk increasing from keyless systems

A new investigation has found that some of Britain's newest and most popular cars can be stolen in seconds because of a weakness in their keyless entry and start systems.

The study, carried out by What Car?, discovered that the new DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige could be stolen in just 10 seconds when its keyless entry system was active and its motion sensor technology had not disabled the keyfob.

Meanwhile, the Land Rover Discovery Sport could be stolen in just 30 seconds.

Car theft rates in England and Wales have reached an eight-year high, with more than 106,000 stolen last year alone. Vehicles fitted with keyless entry and start systems are being targeted by thieves. Criminals using specialist tools can capture a key's signal and relay it to another device next to the car, allowing them to enter and start the vehicle.

What Car? tested seven different models, all fitted with keyless entry and start technology. Its security experts were able to break into a number of them within a matter of seconds.

Some new models on sale today feature technology that helps prevents keyless theft. Manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have introduced motion detection technology inside their car keys – if the key is left untouched, it stops emitting a signal. However, if the key is in a pocket or handbag, and the owner is walking around, the car can still be vulnerable.

Jaguar Land Rover has taken a different approach, introducing ultra-wide-band radio technology on some of its latest models, which transmits a wide range of signals from the key, meaning thieves can't lock onto the signal and fool the vehicle.

What Car?'s security experts couldn't steal any vehicle with their keyfobs deactivated. However, this technology is not yet widely available.

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said, 'It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they've replaced. It is great news that a small number of brands are taking the problem of car theft seriously, but more needs to be done to improve security, particularly of desirable used models.'

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July/Aug 2019
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