96% of Car Owners Vulnerable To a Relay Attack by Criminals

…As TRACKER urges motorists to safeguard their keys to prevent theft

According to the latest figures1 from TRACKER (part of the Tantalum Corporation), 96% of motorists it surveyed are at risk of having their car stolen by criminals using the latest theft technique – a relay attack. In 2016, 66% of TRACKER’s stolen vehicle recovery customer thefts’ were committed by way of a ‘relay attack’, confirming just how prevalent this crime has become.

Not only are so many people vulnerable to the risk of theft via this means, 25% of those surveyed by TRACKER said they leave their car keys somewhere in the hallway overnight. This is the most common room in the house for thieves to target to intercept an electronic car key’s signal, and it’s where the signal is likely to be strongest because of its proximity to the vehicle itself.

A ‘relay attack’ is a new method used by car thieves, which involves two criminals working together using electronic signal relay devices. Just recently, CCTV footage obtained by West Midlands Police of a theft of a Mercedes2, confirmed just how easily criminals can use a device to receive the car key signal from inside the victim’s home, transferring that signal to the second box, which is placed next to the car. The car’s system is tricked into thinking the key is there, allowing thieves to unlock the vehicle and drive away within minutes.

The TRACKER survey shows that 13% of people leave their keys on the hallway table, which is as good as leaving the door open for thieves. A quarter (25%) leave their keys in a dedicated key pot or on a key hook elsewhere downstairs, whilst 15% put them in a drawer in a downstairs room. Although putting keys in a drawer means they are out of sight should an opportunistic burglar be on the prowl, it won’t protect them from a relay attack should a techno savvy car thief be lurking outside.

“We’re seeing more and more of these relay attacks taking place across the country,” explains Andy Barrs, Head of Police Liaison at TRACKER. “It’s clear from our survey that many people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.

“The good news is there are simple precautions people can take. Whilst the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost effective way to thwart the criminals. Alternatively, invest in a metallised signal blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet, which is designed to shield electronic keys from relay attacks.

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“It’s also worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on the keyless security system. Physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps will deter thieves. And whilst investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner. This, plus added vigilance, dramatically contributes to keeping thieves at bay.”

Unlike other devices, TRACKER’s unique technology can locate stolen vehicles anywhere, even when they are hidden in a garage or shipping container. TRACKER has been reuniting car lovers with their vehicles for nearly 25 years, and it’s this expertise which makes TRACKER the leader in stolen vehicle recovery. TRACKER stolen vehicle recovery systems work like an electronic homing device. A covert transmitter is hidden in one of several dozen places around the vehicle. There is no visible aerial, so the thief won’t even know it’s there.

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