Today’s cars are equipped with the latest security tech—things like remote locks and even engine immobilizers—but, as a new report shows, it’s actually getting easier to steal vehicles.
The weak link in modern car security, according to a new report from the UK’s What Car, are the keyless entry systems and push button ignitions that are so commonplace today. Although those technologies make car ownership more convenient, since you never have to fumble with a fob or use an actually key, they’re making vehicle theft much easier for criminals.
Back in the day, car theft took real effort. You either had to break a window or wedge open a door to gain access to a vehicle, and then there was the matter of busting the steering column so you could hot wire the ignition. Even a seasoned car crook couldn’t get away with a car in less than 2 minutes 30 seconds.
But these days the very same kind of technology that’s supposed to make our cars more secure is actually making it easier for car thieves. In fact, it’s possible to steal a modern car in 10 seconds without breaking a sweat or even a window, all with equipment readily available on sites like Amazon.
So how are criminals doing it? They’re using scanning devices that can pick up the code that’s being emitted from the key fob in your pocket or even sitting near your front door at home. That code can be beamed to a second repeater device being used by another person near your car. Since modern cars are designed to recognize a coded signal rather than just a specific key fob, the repeater can be used to gain entrance to your vehicle and even start the engine.
In What Car’s testing, they were able to gain access to a Citroen DS3 Crossback in just 5 seconds using a scanner and repeater 5 seconds after that, they were driving away in the vehicle.
Automakers overall didn’t fare well in What Car’s testing. They managed to “steal” a Land Rover Discovery Sport in 30 seconds, and they got away with a BMW X3 in a mere 60 seconds.
Automakers clearly have some ground to make up when it comes to beefing up vehicle security, but some strides are being made. General Motors recently unveiled a new electrical vehicle architecture that not only supports advance tech like over-the-air updates, but also improves overall vehicle security.