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New car theft technique: Thieves use ‘relay attack’ to steal Mercedes

2017-12-05 14:59

Image: Youtube

London - Motorists are at risk of having their car stolen by criminals using a new theft technique - a relay attack.

A video posted by the West Midlands Police department in England, shows thieves using a 'relay attack’ to steal a vehicle.

A ‘relay attack’ is a new method used by car thieves, which involves two criminals working together using electronic signal-relay devices. CCTV footage shows just how easily criminals can use a device to receive the car key signal from inside the victim’s home, transferring that signal to the second box, which is placed next to the car.

The car’s system is tricked into thinking the key is there, allowing thieves to unlock the vehicle and drive away within minutes.

Vehicle specialist and owner of Auto-Wizz, Moinuddin Gaibe, says: "No one can give any conclusive evidence that an incident like this has yet occureed in SA.

"How it works is that the device used by the two men in the video acts as a receiver, and searches for the radio frequency (RF) signal from a keyless fob (read: car key. It then stores the RF of the key. That RF signal then relays the information of the key to the other unit. In the video, you can see one guy close to the rear of the car. RF keys are coded and in turn, the car then thinks they actual key is coming closer to the vehicle as the second receiver is usually located close to the start button of the car.

"Obviously, the two criminals in the video have targeted a Mercedes-Benz with keyless entry."
 
Gaibe also says there's a pretty easy solution to prevent this happening to local keyless entry car owners: "It's simple, just make sure you keep your car keys in a steel enclosure, to block any sent or receiving signals." 

Tracker survey

Not only are many people vulnerable to the risk of theft via this means, in a survey, vehicle recovery specialists Tracker, said 25% respondents said they leave their car keys somewhere in the hallway overnight. This is the most common room in the house for thieves to target to intercept an electronic car key’s signal, and it’s where the signal is likely to be strongest because of its proximity to the vehicle itself.

A survey shows that 13% of people leave their keys on the hallway table, which is as good as leaving the door open for thieves. A quarter (25%) leave their keys in a dedicated key pot or on a key hook elsewhere downstairs, whilst 15% put them in a drawer in a downstairs room. Although putting keys in a drawer means they are out of sight should an opportunistic burglar be on the prowl, it won’t protect them from a relay attack should a tech savvy car thief be lurking outside.

Where do you typically leave your car keys at night?

In the hallway – either on a table or in a bag or coat pocket 25%
A dedicated key pot or key hook elsewhere in the house 25%
In a draw downstairs 16%
In my bedroom 12%
A combination of 1-4 above 10%
Somewhere in the house – I usually have to hunt for them in the morning 8%
A metal container to ensure it is protected from a relay attack 4%

How to avoid vehicle theft: Info by Tracker

Check that your car is locked

Always double check that your car is physically secure and alarmed, when using keyless locking systems. Wait to see the flashing hazard lights confirm it’s locked. Thieves frequently lie in wait and block locking signals as owners walk away from their cars.

Keep keys out of sight

Leaving keys in the hallway or on the kitchen worktop means thieves can break in and swipe them quickly, before driving off in your car. Put them in a drawer or out of sight in a bag, at least.

Block electronic key fob signals  

A faraday wallet is designed to shield electronic car keys from relay attacks – a new theft technique that involves extending a key fob’s signal by relaying it from one device to another. But you could also put them in a metal tin or microwave overnight to protect them from a relay attack.

Add layers of security  

Physical barriers can be effective in deterring thieves. Consider adding a crook lock or wheel clamp to your car. Alternatively, a driveway parking post or just locked gates can stop thieves in their tracks.

Install a ‘ghost immobiliser’

For another layer of protection, add a secondary barrier to your car’s factory fitted immobiliser by having a unique access code to start your car.

Invest in a tracking device

A tracking device won’t stop your vehicle being stolen, but it significantly increases chances of police recovering and returning it, if thieves do take it.


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