97% of Cars Tested with Keyless Entry Are Vulnerable to Electronic Theft

Bmw Key Fob Relay Box Thefts Credit: Mohd Syis Zulkipli / Shutterstock
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Many of the most popular cars sold across the globe could be vulnerable to theft with cheap and readily available technology.

The German General Automobile Club (ADAC) conducted a series of tests on 237 vehicles with keyless entry and found that about 230 of them were worryingly easy to break into, according to a report by British consumer group known as “Which?

Most keyless entry systems require that the key fob be in relatively close proximity to a vehicle for it to be unlocked and started. But Which? reported that “cheap electronic equipment,” called relay boxes, can be used to boost a key fob’s signal.

Thieves can use these relay boxes to trick a keyless entry system into unlocking a car — even if the key fob is located in the owner’s house.

Which? revealed that, four of the five most popular car models sold in the United Kingdom were susceptible to relay box theft. That includes the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Gold, and Nissan Qashqai.

  • Of the 237 vehicles that the ADAC tested, 230 could be unlocked and started with a relay box.
  • Four models could be either unlocked or started.
  • Three models, all from Land Rover, were not affected by the technology.

Other impacted vehicles include models form Honda, Audi, Hyundai, BMW, Kia, Skoda, Volvo, Peugeot and Renault.

For their part, all of the impacted vehicle makers told Which? that they prioritize car security and are actively looking for methods to improve it.

Ford, for example, recommended that users with keyless entry vehicles could take additional precautions — like storing their key fob in a “metal box or shielded pouch” in their homes.

Furthermore, some in the auto industry said that the best course of action may be to go after thieves and relay boxes, rather than keyless entry systems. Availability of this electronic equipment should be “outlawed,” a Ford spokesperson told CNN.

Some manufacturers, like BMW and Mercedes, have added other security measures to new vehicles. That includes motion sensors that prevent a vehicle from being unlocked if the key fob is still.

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