Over 200 popular car models that feature keyless entry are easy to steal, according to a new report from British consumer reporting group Which? The vehicles can be stolen by using “cheap electronic equipment” purchased online. At risk are four of the five top-selling vehicles in the United Kingdom, including models from Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan.
Popular Cars Vulnerable To High-Tech Theft
The five best-selling cars in the UK include the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Corsa. Only the Corsa is safe from the threat of electronic theft, Which? reports, because the company doesn’t offer a model with keyless entry.
Common in newer car models, keyless entry allows the vehicle to be opened and started via an electronic signal transmitted by a key fob. In most situations, the key fob needs to be in close proximity to the car for the system to work. But thieves, as Which? has found, have tools at their disposal to hack into the mechanism and steal these cars with ease.
Electronic Relay Tech Opens Door For Thieves
Using an electronic relay box, disreputable perps are able to boost the key fob’s signal – even when it’s sitting in your key dish at home – and unlock cars by fooling the keyless entry system into thinking that the key fob is present.
A thorough test carried out by the German General Automobile Club found that out of 237 keyless entry car models, 230 could be both unlocked and started using relay technology, while four of the models could be either unlocked or started. Vulnerable car models ran the gamut, from Honda, Audi, Hyundai and BMW to Kia, Volvo, Peugeot and Renault.
Only Land Rover Resists The Trick
Only three models were found to withstand the relay technology trick – all hailing from Jaguar’s Land Rover imprint, the most recent models of the Discovery, Range Rover and i-Pace.
In ending its report on the subject, Which? struck out at the vehicle industry, saying car makers have “sacrificed the security of scores of modern cars for the sake of convenience.”
Car Makers “Committed” To Security
In statements to the publication, all of the carmakers (except for Honda) told the consumer reports-style content creator that vehicle security is a priority and they are searching for ways to strengthen it.
Consumer Preference, Security At Odds
But other car makers seem to understand that they’re in a bind, between ideal security and consumer preference. A spokesperson for Ford told CNN, “to do well here, manufacturers should basically not offer keyless technology, which is counter to customer demand and feedback.” Rather than take out their ire on car manufacturers, the spokesperson said, authorities should go after the “tiny minority” who use electronic relay technologies to steal keyless cars. Ford, for its part, is in favor of a total ban on the availability of relay technology.
In a further statement, Ford also advised keyless car owners to take additional precautions. Key fobs, for example, should be stored in metal boxes or shielded pouches and kept away from the front door.
Electronic relay equipment is indeed cheap. A simple box can be purchased on eBay for under $80, but you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. This sort of theft is still exceedingly rare, however, according to a Volvo spokesperson who spoke to CNN.