Hundreds of popular cars – including four out of the UK’s five best-selling models – are susceptible to keyless theft, according to Which?.
Which? analysed research from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) to find out the impact of keyless attacks on the five best-selling cars in the UK in 2018.
Four of them – the Ford Fiesta,Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus – were found to be susceptible to this kind of theft. Only the Vauxhall Corsa was deemed safe from such attacks, because it is not available with keyless entry and start.
Thieves have been using keyless theft – also known as the relay attack – for several years, but manufacturers continue to make new models that can be stolen in this way, meaning there is an ever-larger pool of vehicles for thieves to target.
ADAC tested a total of 237 keyless cars and found that all but three of them are susceptible to relay attacks. 230 of the vehicles tested, from more than 30 brands, could be unlocked and started using relay boxes, while a further four models could be either unlocked or started. The only three keyless cars that ADAC has tested that were not susceptible to relay attacks are from Jaguar Land Rover – the latest models of the Discovery and Range Rover, and the 2018 Jaguar i-Pace.
Which? researched the cost of installing keyless technology. If you were to buy the 2018 model of the VW Toureg, for instance, equipping it with keyless entry and start would set you back £700 and for the Volvo V60 (2018) would cost you £500. While these upgrades could be seen to offer additional convenience in everyday life, it could be seen as paying hundreds of pounds for a less secure vehicle.
What’s more, the 2018 models of the Ford Eco-Sport and Nissan Leaf are among those that include keyless technology as standard, and yet are still susceptible to these attacks. Which? is concerned that car manufacturers are sacrificing the security of cars for a small added convenience.
To find out more about how cars can be susceptible to theft, and to see a full list of which cars failed the test, visit: www.which.co.uk/keylesscars
Harry Rose, Editor of Which? Magazine, said:
“With more than one car being stolen every seven minutes, it’s important that people can feel confident in the security of their vehicle.
“The fact that so many cars on the road are susceptible to keyless theft simply isn’t good enough. We want manufacturers to up their game when it comes to making their vehicles safe from theft.”
Which? advice to protect your car from theft:
- Don’t make your car look more appealing to thieves than it already does (e.g. never leave valuables on view).
- Cars are far more likely to be stolen at night. If you can’t park overnight in the locked garage, try and park in a well-lit area, or consider investing in CCTV.
- If you use the remote-locking button on your key fob, make sure you check the doors are actually locked – this will ensure you beat any thieves using a remote signal blocker.
- Keep your car keys out of sight at home and never within close proximity of your front door. If you own a keyless car, contact your manufacturer to find out how you can protect yourself.
- Use a steering wheel lock. The best locks are approved by Secured by Design and cost around £120.
Notes to editors
- The General German Automobile Club (ADAC) has tested 237 keyless cars and all but three of them are susceptible to the relay attack. The only cars that can’t be stolen using the relay attack were the latest models of the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover and the Jaguar i-Pace. The keyless fobs for these models use ultra-wide-band (UWB) technology that can very accurately determine the actual distance between the key and the car, meaning the car can’t be tricked by radio wave extenders.
- Relay attack – using ‘relay’ boxes – one placed near your car and the other near where you keep your key – criminals can lengthen the radio signal produced by your fob, tricking your car into thinking the key is within close enough range to be unlocked and started.
- The Ford Focus (2018) hasn’t been tested by ADAC, but Ford told Which? that it is susceptible to the relay attack. The manual of the latest Ford Focus suggests that keyless entry can be switched off using controls on the steering wheel, but Ford was not able to confirm if this would protect owners from the relay attack.
- The Land Rover Discovery, Land Rover Range Rover and Jaguar iPace were tested by ADAC in the last year.
Rights of reply
- Ford, PSA Group (which includes Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall), BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Volvo and Volkswagen Group (which owns the Audi, Skoda and VW brands) told us that they take car security seriously and that they constantly look for ways to make their cars more secure. Several also pointed out that the risk of theft remains low.
- Ford also advised its customers to keep their key fob in a metal case to help reduce the risk of theft.
- The latest models from BMW and Mercedes have added motion sensors in the key fobs, so the keys won’t produce a signal when they’re not moving. The keyless signal can be switched off on older Mercedes cars by double-clicking the lock button on the key. Mazda owners can contact customer services to get the keyless function deactivated for free. New Peugeot 508 owners can contact their dealer to get the keyless function deactivated for free.
- Honda declined to comment.