We’ve said it before, but stealing a car with a keyless ignition system is really easy. So easy, in fact, that it’s become a serious problem in the United Kingdom, among other countries. The National Police Chiefs’ Council there released a reminder Thursday that owners should be vigilant, and there’s actually a rather simple solution to help stave off the threat.
The short answer is to stash that fob in a tin or, say, your fridge (yes, seriously) when you’re not on the road. The NPCC cites an increase of 3.1 percent in vehicle crime in the U.K. between May and June, and most of it can be chalked up to keyless theft. Thieves can simply use a relay device to amplify the signal emitted from your car’s fob, tricking the car into thinking that its fob is nearby when it’s actually being spoofed by the relay. They need only less than a minute to do it, at which point it’s just a matter of unlocking the doors and driving off.
The thing is, the relay won’t be able to pick up the fob’s signal if it’s being physically blocked. And that’s not hard to do! You could use one of those aforementioned makeshift solutions, likely already lying around in your home. Or, if you feel like spending money, there happen to be tons of RFID pouches and such on the internet’s numerous sites that sell things.
Fortunately, I haven’t heard of this happening to anyone I know, which is probably why I was unaware of the growing issue this has become until I read the NPCC’s report. Our editor-in-chief Rory says it’s been a problem in Michigan, which tracks. In the U.K., it seems pretty sophisticated:
Last week Leicestershire Police secured the conviction of seven members of an organised crime gang who were involved in more than 50 keyless thefts involving vehicles totalling £2.4 million. They were jailed for a total of more than 30 years.
Earlier this month in Liverpool five people were sentenced to a total of more than 23 years in prison after being convicted for a range of offences including the theft of keyless cars totalling around £2.6 million.
Cheshire Constabulary secured the conviction of a man for several car and key burglaries and he was sentenced to more than 7 years imprisonment last week.
You may be reassured to know that some automakers are responding to this problem by building ultra-wideband technology into their fobs, which employs many frequencies to thwart relay attacks. However, these are so far limited to all but the latest and most technologically up-to-date cars, like the new Land Rover Discovery. If you don’t happen to have a new Discovery in your driveway, maybe consider finding a tin or something.