Added: 05 December 2017

News coverage of CCTV footage showing thieves stealing a car without even needing to see the owner’s keys has worried many drivers. 

The ‘transmitter relay’ attack seen in the footage exploits a vulnerability in vehicles’ keyless entry systems, with criminals amplifying or capturing the signal from a keyless or ‘smart’ fob. 

Keyless fobs, which should not be confused with standard remote fobs, allow drivers to easily open and start their vehicle without pressing the fob or even having to remove it from their pocket. 

Thatcham Research’s security tips for drivers with keyless entry systems include:

1.       Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car.  Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?

2.       Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off?  If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.

3.       Store your keys away from household entry points.  Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify the signal.

4.       Be vigilant.  Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood and report anything unusual to the police.

5.       Review your car security.  Check for aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves.  A list can be found on the Thatcham website, here.

“Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers,” said Richard Billyeald, Chief Technical Officer at Thatcham Research, “but in some situations they can be exploited by criminals.  Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow our simple security steps.”