Car Security Expert Reveals How To Keep Your Car Safe From Thieves
There were 108,542 motor vehicle thefts in England and Wales between March 2021 and March 2022, which was a 21% increase from the previous year’s 89,165. Having your car stolen is one of the worst nightmares a car owner can experience, so it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks.
Car thieves are a lot savvier than they used to be even a decade ago, and they now have more ways to potentially cause issues for car owners than ever before.
Modern technology has also meant that hacking technology unfortunately evolves along with it. In our previous research on a decade of car crimes, we found that 80% of all vehicles stolen and recovered were taken without using the owner’s keys, highlighting a clear issue with recent technological advances in cars.
Expert Reveals How To Keep Your Car Safe, and Why Your HEADLIGHTS Could Be Leaving You Vulnerable
Xcite Car Leasing spoke to Security expert Ken Munro from pentestpartners.com, to provide advice to people on how to keep their cars safe from potential theft.
1. Your headlights could cause your car to be stolen - Be vigilant against the possibility of attacks through the vehicle networks
Hackers and thieves have developed different ways of using modern technology to break into and steal cars.
Ken explains the dangers behind these sophisticated attacks: “We are starting to see attacks against cars through headlights, wing mirrors, and other unusual vectors. This takes advantage of the vehicle networks (usually the Controller Area Network or ‘CAN’) that extend into these devices.
If not correctly protected, some vehicles may allow a thief to connect to wiring in the headlight and run code that allows the car to be unlocked and then start the engine.”.
2. Protect your keyless entry car from relay attacks
Many cars offer keyless entry and are wired to unlock automatically when the key is within a short distance of the car. Thieves can use a device to fool the car into thinking the key is nearby, with the relay device then unlocking the car and starting the engine. This is done by capturing the signal that your car key emits.
Security expert Ken Munro explains: “The many cases of theft through keyless entry ‘relay’ attacks is a problem. The auto industry was alerted to this many years ago but failed to address the problem at first, thinking that car thieves were not sufficiently skilled to effect such an attack.
They didn’t appreciate that relay kits would be created and sold on the black market, bringing a relay attack into the capability of any non-techie thief.”
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of sophisticated criminals stealing your car:
· Keep the car key well away from the car while you’re at home.
· Reprogramme the keys if you have just bought a second-hand keyless entry car.
· Buy a signal-blocking pouch to keep the key in, such as a Faraday Bag.
· Switch off wireless signals on the key fob when it’s not being used.
3. Don’t put your keys in the microwave! - physical car security protections can help
As well as protecting against modern-style attacks such as relay attacks and hacking the car’s technology, old-school security measures are important too.
Ken Munro explains that some car security measures are safer than others: “One might consider physical security protections too, such as a steering wheel lock.
One concerning suggestion was to put one’s keys in the microwave; whilst this will indeed shield the radio signal from thieves, the chance of accidentally nuking the keys is high.”.
4. Lock any EV chargers as these may be more targeted with the increase in electricity costs
As EVs become more popular, crimes related to EVs have also increased. Whether it’s targeting the cars for their batteries, their chargers, or due to their high sale value, EVs are an attractive prospect for a seasoned car thief.
Ken Munro explains: “EV car batteries are extremely valuable, but can be hard to remove quickly. It’s not a matter of quickly jacking up a car in the street and removing, say, a catalytic convertor; the batteries are heavy and bulky. That said, criminals will innovate quickly.
Almost all EVs are connected with smart apps to manage charging and more, remotely. Some early EV apps had security flaws that allowed the account to be compromised and the vehicle unlocked remotely. These have largely been resolved though.
Most EV chargers are now ‘smart’. This means that a stolen charger may be identifiable by the provider of the ‘smart’ technology. It may be possible for them to track and/or remotely disable stolen chargers.
With the recent rises in fuel and electricity costs, it strikes me that theft of electricity to charge vehicles may be on the near horizon. Lock your chargers!”
5. Don’t leave keys within easy reach of the letterbox
Keeping the keys to your car near the front door and within reach of thieves is a big mistake, no matter whether it’s a classic key or a keyless fob. Ken Munro explains: “Leaving one’s car keys within easy reach of the letterbox has made thefts rather easy in the past.
“If your car offers keyless entry or requires the key to be in the car to start it, then it’s important to keep your keys as far away from the car as possible, not by your front door next to your driveway!”
6. Always check you’ve locked your car - as 41% of thefts were due to this failure
Locking your vehicle should be the first step you take, but many people don’t believe it’s necessary when the car is parked up on the drive or just outside the home.
The sad reality is that where the car is parked makes little difference to thieves, and they will still target it if they see an opportunity.
Our previous research into car crimes revealed that 41% of car thefts were due to the owner failing to lock the door.
Though it’s your responsibility to lock the car, Ken explains that manufacturers have to take responsibility for car safety too: “Failing to lock a car is another obvious problem. That said, I believe that responsibility for the majority of vehicle security issues lies with the manufacturers – it is their responsibility to ensure that a vehicle is not easy to steal, though owners should play their part.”.
7. Be aware that some criminals devote their time to developing tools for hacking cars
Car hacking is, unfortunately, becoming more common as new technology is created. You’ll need to ensure that you’re aware of the potential dangers, as described in the above tips.
Regarding whether there are any specific models of cars that are targeted above others, Ken Munro states: “It really varies, but underground online markets will offer knowledge and electronic tools to target particular vehicles. It’s not particularly specific to any manufacturer, but certain models of some cars will have issues that these markets have found security flaws in and developed tools for.”
Additional Tips On Preventing Car Theft
There are also some further steps you can take as part of your car security routine, which is backed by the Metropolitan Police. These include:
- Fold the wing mirrors in
- Park in a well-lit area
- Make sure your security locks are of high quality
- Double-check that the electronic locking has worked
- Secure any diagnostic ports
What To Do If Your Lease Car Is Stolen
There are three main steps to take in the unfortunate event that your lease car is stolen:
- Call the police: Report the theft to the police, providing details on your car so that they can begin the investigation.
- Call your insurance company: If the car cannot be recovered, your insurance company will be paying for the car. They may also provide you with a courtesy car in the meantime.
- Call your leasing company: The leasing company will also need to be aware of the situation, and they will work with your insurance provider to work out a settlement. If they are unable to do so, you may be financially responsible for paying the difference between the agreed amount from your insurance company and the amount needed to end the contract. You can protect yourself from this by taking out a GAP insurance policy.
Will Bullen of Xcite Car Leasing commented “In our previous research around car crime, we found that car theft prosecutions were down 58%, car thieves have definitely advanced with how they’re stealing vehicles. With theft again in the news, around EV chargers and Keyless entry, it’s important drivers are aware of what they should be doing to keep their cars as safe as possible, keeping your keys away from the door and parking in a well-lit area are just some of these, but drivers need to be aware of other trends on the rise that are around keyless entry and EV chargers.. If you’re leasing a car you should also follow the same measures.”
What Are The Main Items Stolen From Cars?
According to Aviva, the most commonly stolen items from cars are valuables such as wallets, handbags, briefcases, or cash. This made up 39% of the items, which was by far the highest percentage.
Next was exterior fittings at 19%, and electrical equipment (13%) such as SatNavs and DVD players, showing that infotainment systems are far from safe when thieves have targeted your vehicle.
Tools are often left in work vans and cars overnight, making up 10% of item thefts overall.
Mobile phones (3%) and house keys (1%) were low on Aviva’s list of the most commonly stolen items from cars, but it’s important to make sure these items are never left unattended, as thieves will no doubt be attracted to this if they can see them through the car window.
Which Models Are The Most Commonly Stolen?
A Range Rover Sport has also been named as one of the most commonly stolen cars, as hackers and thieves specifically target them due to their keyless entry features and high re-sell price.
Keyless car thefts remain a massive problem in the automotive industry, so make sure to follow the tips outlined by Ken Munro and the Metropolitan Police to keep your vehicle safe.
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