Vehicle theft in the UK has seen a huge spike in the last few years.
The RAC suggest that a total of 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen in 2013 to 40 police forces in England and Wales…but by 2016 this had risen to 85,688.
Crime in England and Wales figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics
Overall, vehicle theft is still much lower compared to previous decades. In 2003, around 300,00 vehicle related thefts were reported to the Police according to data from RAC insurance. The evolution of anti-theft technology is assumed to have been a significant factor in reducing that figure to under 100,000 in ten years.
But with the figure now on the rise, conversations on the security of keyless entry are getting louder.
How Does Keyless Entry Work?
Your key is a transmitter and the receiver is somewhere in the car. Paired to the same pseudo-random-number generator, they use a rolling code system to generate a new code every single time the car locks. The keys and car are synced to generate exactly the same number every time. The transmitter and receiver communicate on a very weak signal and only when the transmitter and receiver prove their numbers match will the car unlock.
If you were trying to guess the next number in the pattern, you’d have less than a one in a trillion chance of getting it right.
That’s all very impressive… so why are some people arguing key less entry vehicles are at risk?
What Is Relay Theft?
Relay theft doesn’t demand much skill. It’s very quiet. It’s very cheap. For the criminal, it’s very safe.
Keyless entry vehicles unlock once the transmitter (key) and the receiver (somewhere inside the car) have proved their random numbers match. To do this the key and car must be close to each other. They communicate on a very weak frequency, not strong enough to reach more than a few metres.
If you amplify the signal coming from the key, suddenly its possible to open the car from much larger distances.
Using an amplifier device it’s possible to trace your keys signal and amplify it to a secondary transmitter. As far as the car can tell, the crooks secondary transmitter is your key. The random number on the false transmitter matches the one it has and it will unlock the car.
News reports on the subject suggest you can purchase both of these devices on the internet for less than £50.
How to Protect Yourself Against Relay Theft
Keep The Keys Far Away From Windows Or Doors
The signal from your key is weak. If it’s placed far away from any outer walls, door or windows criminals shouldn’t be able to get close enough to amplify it.
Turn Off Your Key
Check your vehicles handbook or contact the manufacturers directly to find out if it’s possible to turn off your vehicles key. Although not always obvious, it is possible to stop your key from transmitting when you don’t want it to.
Put It Inside A Metal Box
As silly as this looks, this idea isn’t completely crazy. If you surround something in metal, it is harder for the signals to be picked up.
Invest In A Steering Lock
You can’t drive a car with a steering lock on it. This isn’t the most practical solution for convenience but effective for peace of mind.
Check If A Recall Is Overdue
Some manufacturers have done recalls to protect against this issue. Check with your manufacturer if one has yet to be done.