Thieves target cars with keyless technology

11 August 2022 | David Young

In recently released Home Office data, there were 101,198 vehicles stolen in England and Wales last year

Thieves target cars with keyless technology

The most recent crime wave has highlighted that criminals are targeting cars with keyless technology.

Whilst improvements in car technology have undoubtedly made life easier for many car owners, hackers have been able to spot new methods of breaking into vehicles.

Key hacking is when thieves attack built-in systems that can unlock a vehicle when the key is nearby, without having to press a button on the fob or put a key in the lock.

If the key is close enough to the car, it sends a short-range signal that tells the car to unlock, even if it's in your handbag, pocket or inside the house.

Since the introduction of the technology, criminals have found a way to scan for and hack the signal to give them access to some cars. This is also known as 'relay theft'.

According to the Home Office, more than 72% of vehicles that are stolen are never recovered. So, how can you protect your vehicle against this?

RAC insurance director Mark Godfrey says: "Drivers with keyless systems can take precautions to prevent their vehicles being stolen including storing their keys in protective cases so the signal can't be cloned, or even switching off the keyless feature on the fob if it is an option.

"And try to avoid storing your keys by the front door – it may not be fail-safe but get into the habit of leaving your keys well away from your vehicle, such as at the back of the house."

Drivers can also make sure that all the software in the vehicle is up to date, and also use a steering lock as a last preventative measure – meaning that even if a thief can enter your vehicle, they cannot drive off with it. You can also use a wheel clamp.

Worryingly, it can take less than a minute for prospective thieves to break into your vehicle through a relay theft, so being prepared is key.

If you own a vehicle with keyless technology, you can also get a key fob blocker. These are metal-lined bags or wallets that are designed to keep your vehicle safe by blocking signals from relay boxes.

Once you've locked your vehicle, put all your keyless technology in the bag or wallet and leave somewhere away from where the car is parked.