Gone In 18 Seconds: Keyless Entry Cars Are Shockingly Easy To Steal

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.


  • Six_Tymes

    manufacturers didn’t know this would happen? you mean to tell me they didn’t research and develop the system with security in mind? of course it’s not their fault that thieves exist, but these flaws sure is helping their sales isn’t it. owners lose their cars to theft, insurance pays, and people buy another. lack of built in security should be investigated further.

    • Momogg

      They knew, but owner should know as well. The world is not Disneyland.

      • LeStori

        My parents Ford Customline from the 1950s had a spare key in the rear tail light from theFord Factory. Those were the days when we left our house unlocked even when there was no one at home . It was only ever locked if we went on Holidays. We were never robbed. Nor was the car ever stolen even though it was left unlocked everywhere we went.

        • Momogg

          It was possible few years ago. 😉

    • brn

      They knew it would happen, but they also knew car reviewers would slam them for not having the same features as a Suzuki and they’d sell fewer cars.

  • Momogg

    We will have the same problem with contactless bank cards… We should handle it before it happens.

    • Jureck

      Yes, even my bank said I should turn this function off, for safety reasons.

      • Momogg

        If your bank said that… 🙄

        I have a special wallet, with aluminium inside, it cuts the signal.

    • Andrewthecarguy

      It is already a problem. Many videos on the tube about it. I bought a RFI blocking/shielding wallet. Problem solved.

  • Zizou

    Is it because there is no immobilizer?

  • Maher

    Car keys should have an on/off switch.

    • Andrewthecarguy

      This feature is starting to become a thing. I don’t remember the company, but I think it may be Volvo…the key is not active until you pick it up.

  • Enter Ranting

    Keyless entry is worth it because opening a car with a key is an exhausting ordeal.

    • brn

      Agreed. At my age, I shouldn’t be expected to push a button on a keyfob to get in my car.

  • Thunderbolt

    My girlfriend’s 2018 Subaru shuts down while driving if it does not detect a key in the car. So unless the thief’s device can maintain the exact copy of the key fob then he can drive away, otherwise I think this deterrent should work, for now.

    • LeStori

      Hopefully it Does not do that when the key is actually in the car. I know someone whose wife was rear ended because the car dropped out of cruise control on a motorway. So if you car shuts down on a motor way…

      • buy a Manual, it won’t slow down as fast and you can press the clutch 😉

  • Who asked for Keyless cars? No one, someone had they idea, everyoen did it. I’ve always hated this system. I like to control when the car opens and closes. Some things just don’t need to be reinvented. Like a Volume knob ;-).

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