Keyless Entry Vulnerability: Guidance to Concerned Drivers


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

Spate of vehicle thefts exploiting keyless entry systems continue

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.

Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals. Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow our simple security steps.

We are working closely with the Police and vehicle manufacturers to address this vulnerability, continuing our approach that has driven vehicle crime down 80% from its peak in 1992.”

Security Tips for Drivers with Keyless Entry Systems

  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.

Vehicle Theft Data

Recent ONS data states that 91,000 vehicles were stolen in 2016, up from 70,000 in 2013. However, this data relates to all vehicles, including mopeds, motorbikes and vans. Car crime peaked in 1992, a year which saw 620,000 thefts.

Figures revealing the exact number of cars which have been compromised using the transmitter relay attack are not available, due to the way vehicle thefts are recorded.

BILLYEALD is Technical Officer at UK-based Thatcham Research

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