Keyless cars still at risk of remote stealing

24 March 2016

cosy-coupe- carNo one bothers using a car key anymore, but following on from reports last year warning how remote-key immobilisers could be fooled into thinking would-be thieves had a key, a new report suggests that anyone with £15 can buy an amplifier enabling a swift steal.

German research group ADAC has highlighted a serious security flaw affecting least 24 different models of car. The problem lies with keyless entry- pressing your button to unlock your doors, which works with a remote that acts as a short-range radio transmitter.

Normally the range for these things is about 15 metres, but the research testers discovered that, simply by using a cheap power amplifier, dodgy sorts could boost the range of the remote, thereby tricking cars into thinking the key was in their hands. This means that cars  could be unlocked from up to 100 metres away, even through walls, meaning you wouldn’t b able to see them running off with your car. The same signal often starts the ignition, so no need for hot wires- they can just drive off and get as far as the petrol will take them.

A simple version of the device has been tested and successfully unlocked cars from 19 manufacturers:

Audi A3, A4 and A6

BMW 730d

Citroen DS4 Crossback

Ford Galaxy and Eco-Sport

Honda HR-V

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Optima

Lexus RX 450h

Range Rover Evoque

Renault Traffic

Mazda CX-5

Mini Clubman

Mitsubishi Outlander

Nissan Qashqai and Leaf

Opel Ampera

SsangYong Tivoli XDi

Subaru Levorg

Toyota RAV 4

VW Golf 7 GTD and

Touran 5T

Unfortunately there’s not much  you can do to stop the risk, other than making sure your keys are more than 100m away from your car at all times. Difficult when your car is parked on your drive. However, you could try keeping your keys in a box that blocks electrical signals (usually used to block mobile signals). Or, if you don’t have one of these in your home, our good friends at Which! suggest you might prefer to keep your keys in an even larger metal box. Your fridge. Cool idea.

Otherwise, you have to hope that, with evidence that this is still a problem, car manufacturers will actually get their finger out and fix the issue.

1 comment

  • **Paul**
    I'm always puzzled why we don't still use keys? Back in the early 2000s car security was actually pretty decent, and it required not only a rolling code to activate the car, but also a key to start it. The removal of the key element (to be replaced with these silly damn fobs) has just decreased security.

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