I’ve been hearing lots about keyless car systems being hacked and cars being stolen. How can I stop this happening to me?
There have been reports of increasing instances of thieves using technology to fool keyless entry systems into thinking that the key is nearby, known as relay theft. There are steps you can take to stop the signal from your car key being amplified and putting your car at risk.
Is my car at risk of being ‘hacked’?
Only cars that have a passive keyless entry system are at risk. These allow drivers to open and start their cars without removing the keyless fob from their pocket.
Cars with standard remote fobs are not at risk. If you have to push a button on the fob to gain entry, it’s not a keyless system and your car is not vulnerable to relay theft.
Will my insurer pay out if my car is stolen due to relay theft?
If you discover that your car has been stolen, you should make a claim to your insurer in the usual way. We know that insurers are paying out more motor claims for theft, with the number of claims settled rising by 11% on last year. This partly reflects the widely reported growth in keyless car crime.
How does relay theft work?
Thieves take advantage of a vulnerability in the keyless technology by finding a car parked close to the owner’s house – where the car key is usually kept.
Car thieves work in pairs in relay attacks. One criminal will hold an amplification device up against the front wall of a home searching for a signal from the keyless fob. The device then relays the key’s signal to an accomplice, who is holding another device against the car door.
This fools the vehicle’s keyless entry system into thinking that the key is close by (usually these keys have a range of two meters), enabling one of the thieves to gain entry to the car.
What can I do to protect my car?
Don’t forget the basics – ensure that your car is properly locked and consider low-tech security measures, such as a steering wheel lock or locked gates, which can make life harder for thieves and could act as a deterrent for criminals who may move on to try to find an easier target.
Make sure your car keys are kept as far away as possible from doors and windows and, if possible, shut inside a drawer when you are at home.
You can also purchase Faraday pouches and containers to keep your keys in, which can help block the signal given off by your keys.
Some keys also have the option of turning off the wireless signal. Consult your vehicle manual or contact the manufacturer to check if your key comes with this feature.
If the worst should happen and your car is stolen, having a tracking device fitted can help your vehicle to be recovered.
The above is one of a series of ‘Insurance questions answered’ articles by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).