Relay attacks pose new threat

According to the latest figures from TRACKER, 96% of motorists are at risk of having their car stolen by criminals using the latest theft technique – a relay attack.

In 2016, 66% of TRACKER’s stolen vehicle recovery customer thefts were committed by way of a ‘relay attack’, confirming just how prevalent this crime has become.

A ‘relay attack’ is a new method used by car thieves, which involves two criminals working together using electronic signal relay devices. Just recently, CCTV footage obtained by West Midlands Police of a theft of a Mercedes, confirmed 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.

The TRACKER 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 techno savvy car thief be lurking outside.

‘We’re seeing more and more of these relay attacks taking place across the country,’ explains Andy Barrs, head of police liaison at TRACKER. ‘It’s clear from our survey that many people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.’

TRACKER has provided the following tips in preventing car theft;

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.