Are you in danger of seeing your treasured car being stolen off your driveway, even without criminals having the key?
The rise of keyless cars – where instead of the traditional key being inserted, cars are opened with a remote fob and started by button – has triggered a wave of thefts, as criminals trick vehicles into believing the key fob is present.
There has been a 19 per cent increase in car crime and a 29 per cent surge in crimes related to vehicle interference since 2014, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.
Price comparison website MoneySupermarket looked into car hacking and has revealed the seven sneaky ways a criminal can hack your car.
A significant contributing factor to the rise in vehicle crime, after a period of decline, is the new technology that allows car hackers to gain access to vehicles remotely, says MoneySupermarket.
Worryingly, its study found many of the different methods used by criminals to gain access to vehicles illegally was not known to the majority of the public.
Nearly all drivers were unaware of all the major digital hacking threats their car might face.
More than three in five said they wouldn’t buy a keyless car because of hacking concerns.
In an effort to prevent further crime and raise awareness, MoneySupermarket have highlighted the various ways criminals can hack into your car as well how to protect yourself from vehicle crime.
Keyless car owners are also being encouraged to check through their car insurance policy thoroughly to determine what they may or may not be covered for.
Four in five drivers were not aware if they would be covered by their car insurance if they were hacked.
There can be confusion when trying to understand who is liable at what point – is it the driver, the car manufacturer or the maker of the on-board computers?
The Government and insurers are currently working out how to cover autonomous vehicles to resolve any unanswered questions, according to the comparison site.
Although, usually, your car keys signal cannot reach the car from inside your home, criminals using a ‘relay box’ can boost the signal from your car keys even when they’re away from the vehicle and imitate the exact signal – causing your car to unlock and allowing the thief access.
Stay safe: The best way to protect yourself from this type of crime is to disable your key signal when not using your car or keeping your keys safe in a secure container that blocks the signal.
Another method used by criminals is preventing the car key locking signal from reaching your car – it means your car remains unlocked when you move away from it and the thieves are then able to access your unsecured vehicle.
Stay safe: To prevent this from happening, make sure to check your car doors manually and use a steering wheel lock that will stop thieves from being able to take your car, even if it is unlocked.
A less obvious – and not well known – method is hackers who are able to interact with sensors inside a vehicle’s tyres.
This means they are able to track the vehicle and display false tyre pressure readings – this could then lure you to check the pressure at a garage and for thieves to pounce.
Stay safe: When you check your tyre pressure, lock all doors when you do and seek advice from a car garage if in doubt.
Many cars possess telematics, often without the driver’s knowledge, as many vehicle tracking apps integrate with their technology.
Although this can be handy for those with internet connected cars, it does mean that if a server is misconfigured or can be deliberately altered, hackers can locate, unlock and potentially start the engine of nearby cars.
Stay safe: Speak to your car manufacturer for support.
Hackers can access the internal car network through vulnerabilities in a car’s wi-fi or phone connections and send ‘denial of service’ signals which can shut down air bags, anti-lock brakes, and even door locks.
Stay safe: Changing your passwords regularly can help prevent hackers gaining access.
Cars possess a feature called an ‘on-board diagnostic port’ which allows garages to access the internal data of a vehicle to perform tasks such as checking service light faults and programming new keys for their owners.
However, it is possible to buy kits which can use this port to program new keys for as little as £50, allowing hackers to use them to create new keys to access vehicles.
Stay safe: Use a steering lock to protect yourself and get advice from a reputable garage.
If you use wi-fi in your car, hackers may be able to access it through phishing schemes.
They can send emails with links to malicious websites and apps that, if opened, take your details and even take control of any apps that you have on your phone that allow you to interact with your vehicle.
Stay safe: Be cautious when opening emails from unknown senders and do not open links within these emails if you do not know the source.
At present, in terms of insurance, MoneySupermarket says:
With regards to hacking (‘relaying’) a car, insurers will pay out if the occasion arises as long as the owner of the vehicle has taken reasonable steps to protect their car.
It is possible that certain insurance premiums could rise depending on if a particular make of car is regularly targeted.
Tom Flack, editor-in-chief at MoneySupermarket, said: ‘Car hacking is little understood but a very real threat.
‘Manufacturers are adding increasing amounts of technology to our vehicles, and new technology comes with new risks that drivers need to understand and guard against.
‘As far as hacking activity such as keyless theft – so-called ‘relaying’ – is concerned, insurers will pay out providing the owner/driver has taken reasonable care to protect their property.
‘Owners of cars deemed by insurers to be a particular risk of keyless theft may find they are charged higher premiums as a result.’
Despite a large number of drivers not knowing if they would be covered by insurance, 16 per cent claim they know someone who has fallen victim to car hacking.
Only 19 per cent of drivers currently protect their cars from hacking by putting into place simple measures such as placing their keys in the microwave or in a Faraday cage – a device that shields its contents from static electric fields – stopping would-be hackers from accessing their signal.
These signal blocking pouches can be bought for a few pounds online.
This week, we reported on how thieves used a hi-tech relay device to steal a £30,000 Toyota from owner’s driveway by scanning car key fob through the front door in Greater Manchester, part of a growing trend.
Mr Flack added: ‘We recommend fully researching a vehicle and its capabilities and limitations before purchase, and getting to know a vehicle you already own to make sure you’re aware of any potential security flaws.
Audi: A3, A4, A6
Citroen: DS4 CrossBack
Ford: Galaxy, Eco-Sport
Hyundai: Santa Fe CRDi
Lexus: RX 450h
Nissan: Qashqai, Leaf
Range Rover: Evoque
Ssangyong: Tivoli XDi
Volkswagen: Golf GTD, Touran 5T
Source: German Automotive Club as reported by This is Money in December 2017
Sometimes an old-fashioned security method, such as a steering lock, can be all that’s needed to protect against criminals.’
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