Preventing Keyless Car Thefts in the UK

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While keyless entry systems have improved the convenience of modern car ownership, they have also opened a door for opportunistic criminals to steal vehicles without needing traditional keys. This alarming new crime trend is leaving many drivers feeling helpless. 

At Macs Bollards, we’ve provided a wide range of professional solutions to protect keyless vehicles in commercial and private parking spaces across the UK. Our experienced team explain why keyless cars are targets for thieves, how ‘relay attacks’ target your keyless vehicle, and some simple measures drivers can take to prevent keyless car theft.

What is a Keyless Entry System?

Keyless entry systems allow drivers to unlock and start their vehicle simply by having the wireless key fob nearby, such as in their pocket or bag. These systems rely on radio frequency (RF) technology to communicate between the key fob and the car’s receiver unit, enabling you to control your vehicle remotely. This removes the need to press buttons on the fob.

While convenient, this hands-free functionality has also exposed a major security flaw which tech-savvy thieves are now exploiting across the UK. 

Why Thieves Target Keyless Cars 

For thieves, stealing keyless cars offers big rewards for little effort compared to forcibly breaking and hotwiring vehicles. Keyless systems mean no broken glass or battered locks to draw unwanted attention while they drive off in your car undetected.

Criminals use ‘relay devices’ to hack the signal between your key and car. This allows them to mimic the wireless key, fool the vehicle into thinking the real key is present, and drive the car away – all without needing the actual key.

How Do Relay Attacks Against Keyless Systems Work?

Thieves need two devices to intercept and relay the wireless signal between your key fob and car: 

  1. One device acts as a fake key, imitating the signal sent by your key fob. This is positioned near your vehicle. 
  2. The second relay box, strategically placed closer to your home, amplifies the signal from your real key, which remains safely tucked away inside.

Your vehicle then responds as if the actual key was present outside, releasing the locks and allowing the push button engine to start.

Once inside, thieves can quickly locate and remove any GPS tracking systems before driving off. If not properly protected, even vehicles parked right outside your home are vulnerable.

Protecting Your Keyless Car from Relay Thefts 

Thankfully, several measures can help reduce your vulnerability to keyless car crime. While no single solution offers 100% protection on its own, combining multiple techniques significantly improves security.

Install Bollards at Your Home

By physically blocking the space between your car and the street, bollards make it almost impossible for criminals to position their devices to intercept the key fob signal, rendering relay attacks ineffective. Their visual presence also serves as a deterrent, discouraging thieves from targeting your vehicle. 

Additionally, some retractable bollards can immobilise the car, physically preventing it from being driven away.

Use a Signal-Blocking Pouch

A simple signal-blocking pouch can block wireless signals in and out. Storing your keys inside this lightweight lined bag whenever you’re home keeps them invisible to relay devices outside. Just grab your keys from the pouch when heading out again.

Install a Steering Wheel Lock

While thieves can unlock and start your vehicle via a relay attack, a visible steering wheel lock provides a conspicuous deterrent. The time it takes to remove this physical barrier also increases their chances of being seen and caught.

Choose a Tracking System with Battery Backup  

Basic GPS trackers rely on your car’s battery, meaning they fail once thieves disconnect the power. Opt for a 4G tracker with an independent power supply instead so it continues transmitting even if thieves tamper with the wiring. Just make sure to have this professionally installed as it hinders easy removal.

Park in a Garage or Secure Area When Possible

Parking inside a locked garage creates a physical barrier to relay devices. If only street parking is available, choose well-lit spots in view of CCTV cameras to deter thieves.

Disable Keyless Functions Overnight 

Some key fobs allow you to deactivate wireless locking and unlocking. Doing this stops relay devices from replicating your key signals while you’re at home. It only takes moments to reactivate your key in the morning.

Are Keyless Systems Ever Completely Secure?

While the above tips significantly reduce your risks, keyless systems still carry vulnerabilities that manufacturers haven’t eliminated yet, and existing features like touch sensors on door handles can still potentially be exploited. 

And as technology continues to advance, thieves may find new ways to outsmart keyless defences. No solution yet guarantees impenetrable security. However, combining multiple precautionary measures does make you a far less attractive target.

Trust Macs Bollards to Guard Your Keyless Car

For property owners wanting robust barriers against vehicle theft, Macs Bollards supplies a range of rising bollards for driveways. Please contact us on 0161 320 6463 or email enquiries@macs-bollards.com to discuss protecting your vehicle or your commercial fleet.

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