Four in five of UK’s best-selling cars vulnerable to keyless theft

Four in five of UK’s best-selling cars vulnerable to keyless theft
Four in five of UK’s best-selling cars vulnerable to keyless theft

Four out of five of the UK’s best selling cars are susceptible to keyless theft, it has been claimed.

The Ford Fiesta, VW Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus, which between them accounted for 261,759 new registrations last year, were all found to be vulnerable to so-called relay attacks, according to consumer group Which?

Only the Vauxhall Corsa, the country’s third biggest seller was immune to the risk because it is the only one not available with a keyless entry system.

Soaring thefts

The report comes as new government data reveals that car thefts have risen 40 per cent in the last five years, with almost 112,000 cars stolen in 2017-18.

Which? analysed data from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) to find out the impact of keyless attacks on the five best-selling cars in the UK in 2018.

ADAC tested 237 cars with keyless systems and found that only three – all from Jaguar Land Rover – could not be compromised.

230 of the cars tested, from more than 30 brands, could be unlocked and started using relay boxes while another four could be either unlocked or started.

Only the Jaguar i-Pace, Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover were found to be protected from such attacks.

The Jaguar I-Pace was one of only three cars found not to be susceptible to relay attacks.

Relay thefts work by using a device to amplify the signal from a car’s remote key and relaying it to a second device near the car. This fools the car’s system into thinking the key is near to the car, allowing it to unlock and start.

Tips to beat keyless theft

Keep your keys away from household entry points. Leaving them where thieves can get close makes it easy for the relay box to intercept the signal Make sure your car is locked. Some thieves use signal blockers to stop cars locking. Check for indications that your car has locked such as the hazard lights flashing or wing mirrors folding Invest in a Faraday pouch. These pouches cost as little as £5 and block the key’s signal, meaning thieves can’t hijack it. Using a steering lock. An old-fashioned steering wheel lock means that even if thieves can unlock and start your car they can’t drive it away

‘Manufacturers need to up their game’

Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine, said: “With more than one car being stolen every seven minutes, it’s important that people can feel confident in the security of their vehicle.

“The fact that so many cars on the road are susceptible to keyless theft simply isn’t good enough. We want manufacturers to up their game when it comes to making their vehicles safe from theft.”

However, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said new cars were “more secure than ever”.

The ageing Vauxhall Corsa was the only car in the top five not to be vulnerable to keyless theft

He told the BBC: “Industry takes vehicle crime extremely seriously and any claims otherwise are categorically untrue.

“Criminals will always look for new ways to steal cars; it’s an ongoing battle and why manufacturers continue to invest billions in ever more sophisticated security features.”

Several manufacturers also emphasised that they were working on ways to make cars more secure and that the risk of car theft remained low.

The system on some models can be deactivated by a dealer and BMW and Mercedes have added motion sensors to their key fobs so they don’t send out a signal when they are not moving.

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