By prioritizing convenience over safety, automakers have made it easier for thieves to steal your car by using relay boxes that can lengthen the signal produced by your key and trick the vehicle into thinking you’re near by.
According to British consumer group Which?, your car can be stolen using nothing more than some cheap electronic equipment bought online, and affected models include four of the five best-selling nameplates in the UK.
Furthermore, ADAC (German General Automobile Club) found that 230 out of 237 keyless cars tested could be tricked into thinking your key is closer than it really is.
Among the vulnerable models are UK best-sellers such as the Ford Fiesta, VW Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus, which together accounted for more than a quarter of a million new car registrations in 2018. While the Fiesta, Golf and Qashqai have all been put to (and failed) ADAC’s tests, the latest Focus has not, although Ford told Which? that its C-segment hatch is by no means safe from these types of high-tech attacks.
The numbers also show that more than one vehicle is being stolen every seven minutes in England and Wales, and that it only takes roughly 18 seconds (!) for the thieves to boost your key’s signal, start your car and take off.
If You Own A JLR Model, You’re (Probably) Safe
The cars that couldn’t be unlocked or started using a relay attack were all Jaguar Land Rover products, namely the Discovery, Range Rover and i-PACE. In order to keep these models safe, JLR used ultra-wide-band (UWB) technology for the key fobs, which can very accurately determine the distance between the actual key and the car.
Lately, Mercedes and BMW have also taken extra safety measures, adding motion sensors into their key fobs to keep them from producing any signals while the key is perfectly stationary. Of course, you can always just use a metal case for your key while at home, which should block the signal hack.
At this point, if you own a car with keyless entry and it’s not of JLR’s aforementioned models, you are probably wondering how safe it actually is when you park it.
If you’d like to see a full list of cars that are susceptible to relay attacks, click here. Keep in mind, though, that just because your keyless entry ride isn’t on the ADAC list, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be stolen in the same manner.