Six of the 11 New Cars Launched in 2019 Rated Poor for Security Image: By Александр Поташев AdobeStock_253610276

Is your new car on the “Poor Security” list?

Thatcham Research has launched security ratings to help consumers understand the theft risk of new cars. The new ratings assess whether measures to address the keyless entry/start vulnerability, have been adopted.

Six of the 11 vehicles launched this year have been given a ‘Poor’ rating. Their keyless entry/start system option doesn’t have security measures to prevent theft by criminals using the so-called ‘Relay Attack’ technique. Without this option, the overall security features were classified as ‘Good’.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said:

“This initiative focuses on addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability. We’ve seen too many examples of cars being stolen in seconds from driveways.

“Now, any vehicle that is assessed against the new Thatcham Research Security Rating, and has a vulnerable keyless entry/start system, will automatically not achieve the best rating.”

“Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices.

“The shame is that most of the cars rated ‘Poor’ would have achieved at least a ‘Good’ rating had their keyless entry/start systems not been susceptible to the Relay Attack.”

Audi e-tronSuperior
Ford MondeoPoor
Hyundai NexoPoor
Jaguar XESuperior
Kia ProCeedPoor
Land Rover EvoqueSuperior
Lexus UXPoor
Mercedes B-ClassSuperior
Porsche MacanPoor
Suzuki Jimny**Unacceptable
Toyota Corolla HybridPoor

*Keyless entry/start system assessed within rating whether available as an option or fitted as standard

**Suzuki Jimny does not have a keyless entry/start system as standard or an option

The categories are: Superior, Good, Basic, Poor and Unacceptable

Current theft trends

Thatcham Research’s ratings are designed to reflect current theft trends, with the new release including the latest digital exploitations, whilst maintaining the existing mechanical aspects.

Technicians conduct a series of tests, ranging from timed ‘brute-force’ attacks on locks and access points, to tests that identify digital vulnerabilities, namely whether the keyless entry/start system is susceptible to the Relay Attack or the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) Port allows blank keys to be coded.

Cars that fail the keyless entry/start and OBD tests move down a category per failure. The rating applies whether the keyless entry/start system is optional or standard-fit.

Car Thief tries to disarm car security systems and immobiliser with laptop computer. Car thief, car theft By-antic-AdobeStock_110492123

Bedfordshire Police advice to prevent thefts from keyless vehicles

Bedfordshire Police has issued crime prevention advice to advise motorists how to protect their keyless vehicles.

Community Safety Sergeant Ben Dimmock said:

“Following a rise nationally in thieves using more sophisticated techniques to gain access to keyless entry/start button cars, there are simple steps you can take to help keep your vehicle secure and protect you from becoming a victim of crime.”

What is signal jamming?

Thieves use a gadget to prevent your key fob sending the command to lock your car and it remains unlocked. Whilst this tool will not allow them to steal your car it will allow them to root through your valuables.

How to avoid: Make sure the indicators flash when you press the lock button and listen for the doors locking.

What is signal relaying?

When the correct key fob is close by, the fob recognises the signal and transmits its own code, instructing the vehicle to unlock the doors and to allow the ignition to work on the car.

Thieves use wireless transmitters to capture its radio transmission. This is relayed to another device. It allows the thief to open and start your car in the same way.

How to avoid: Use car key signal blocker cases/sleeves, they cost less than £10, or an aluminium tin at home. Find a safe place for your keys at home and check to ensure they are out of range.

What is key programming?

Every car has a standard diagnostic port fitted. Computer hackers have developed devices that plug into the port, boot up a vehicle’s software and then program a blank key fob. In keyless cars this can be used to start the engine as well as unlock the doors.

How to avoid: Fit a lock to your diagnostic port and use additional security such as a steering wheel lock.

Number plate thefts

Officers are also encouraging residents to report number plate thefts. They are stolen to be used in other offences such as:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal parking
  • Not paying congestion charges
  • Driving away from a petrol forecourt without paying
  • Not paying for parking tickets or speeding fines
  • ‘Disguising’ a stolen vehicle

Vehicles with stolen number plates have also been used in more serious crimes such as burglary, kidnap and robbery.

How to avoid: Use Anti-theft Number Plate Bolts, they cost less than £10.

Ongoing security ratings

Thatcham Research will continue to rate the security of all new vehicles launched in the UK, making the ratings available via its website and its Twitter feed.