25 mar 19

Six important new cars fail keyless security tests

Six new cars form major motor manufacturers have been given a ‘poor’ rating for their anti-theft security measures by Thatcham Research, the UK insurance industry’s research centre.

The Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia ProCeed, Lexus UX, Porsche Macan and Toyota Corolla Hybrid all had keyless entry systems that proved vulnerable to attack.

Keyless entry has become an Achilles’ heel of car security, with thieves using scanners to relay the entry signal from a key fob inside a house to a car on its driveway, without actually having possession of the keys. This deceives the car and key into thinking they are within the 2m range of operation, allowing the car to be unlocked and started.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said, “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.”

Insurance claims rise 

The value of car theft reached its highest level for a decade last year in the UK, with insurers paying out £376 million (€439 million) in theft claims. Laurenz Gerger, motor policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers, said the rise in claims, “was partly driven by the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft,” and he called on manufacturers to tackle their cars’ vulnerability to high-tech thefts.

On the plus side, the new Audi e-tron (pictured above), Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz B-Class were all judged by Thatcham to have ‘superior’ levels of security.

“These carmakers have made significant strides in addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability, by either switching to a more secure wireless technology or introducing key fobs that go to sleep when idle,” said Billyeald. “This demonstrates that there are solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models.”

He advised fleets and drivers with keyless entry/start systems for their cars to:

  • Check whether the key fob can be turned off overnight.
  • Keep keys in a Faraday shielding pouch.
  • Store keys away from household entry points.
  • Turn the keyless entry system off entirely.
Authored by: Jonathan Manning