London's Metropolitan Police is out with a new study that estimates over 6,000 cars were stolen in the city using electronic key spoofing technology, accounting for an average of 17 vehicles lifted each day.
That figure represents 42 percent of all vehicle thefts in London, which the Met believes is one of the reasons that, while most crime is down across the board, vehicle thefts are up by eight percent from the previous year.
According to the Met's task force:
The majority of such thefts appear to be the result of organised criminals using key-programming devices to create duplicate keys for vehicles, but it can include towing vehicles away.
Thieves use a device which bypasses the vehicle's electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD port, downloading the vehicle's information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds. The new key is then compatible with the vehicle, so it disables the alarm and the vehicle can simply be driven away.
However, it's not plush BMWs and massive Mercs that are getting nixed the most. It's primarily cargo vans like the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter, which get stripped and reportedly sold overseas.
The Met's recommending owners do the usual stuff – treat their cars like their homes, always lock up, park in well lit areas, and use a steering wheel or shifter lock – but they're adding a new one to the mix: an OBDII lock.