BMW owners offered fix for hi-tech theft

BMW key
14 Sep, 2012 6:22pm Steve Fowler

New software upgrade should eradicate the security issue highlighted by the BBC Watchdog programme

BMW has finally reacted to the ongoing problem of the theft of its cars by thieves with hi-tech key cloning kit, as reported in Auto Express back in June and highlighted on the BBC Watchdog programme last week.

Thieves have been using the freely available gadgets to code their own keys to BMWs and drive away hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cars. It has left many thousands of BMWs, built between 2007 and September last year, vulnerable to theft.

BMW has been working on a software upgrade to cars which will eradicate the problem for some months, and it’s now available to owners of affected X5 and X6 models. The upgrade will be available for other cars in around eight weeks' time.

A BMW spokesman confirmed that the upgrade will be carried out by dealers free of charge. Owners with affected cars should contact their BMW dealers or call BMW’s hotline on 0800 083 4397.

Auto Express reported on consultant Eric Gallina who had his BMW 335i stolen from outside his house in London. “What was most confusing was that both sets of keys were still in the house and there was no sign of broken glass,” said Gallina. “When the police arrived, they told me that nine other BMWs with keyless entry had been stolen in the Notting Hill area within the past month and a half.”

Thatcham, the motor insurance repair research centre, told us that the problem isn’t unique to BMW and could affect other cars. However, it laid part of the blame at EU competition regulations that insist that the car company’s hi-tech kit is made available to independent operators as well as franchised dealers.

Thatcham vehicle security chief, Mike Briggs told us: “Part of the problem is the access to these devices. All garages should be licenced and repair work logged on a database.”

Until the fix is available to all models, BMW’s website is offering some handy advice to owners which includes “Whereever possible park your car out of sight, in a locked garage or under the cover of CCTV cameras.”

Disqus - noscript

Typical of BMW Bracknell only responding to an issue with their cars when the media gets involved Reminds me of an issue with disintegrating alloys they had a few years ago - other country head offices put their hands up and recompensed them but Bracknell ? Oh no, nothing wrong with the ultimate driving machine YET when the press started investigating .........

At least BMW have reacted and giving their customers a free upgrade. No news from Mercedes and I'll bet they'll sting me £500 for an update like they normally do.

Its only taken BMW 6 years to admit the problem and do something about, smacks of poor customer care to me, BMW sold their soul to the bean counter at around about the same time, coincidence, I dont believe in them..

Personally I;m pissed with BMW BRacknell and BMW dealer Green Bower haverfordwest as they refused to repair my BMW diesel convertible as despite it failing to start (or "proceed") as the cars computer showed no "error codes" they refused to investiagte the issue as Bracknell would not recompense them - computer says no?

I hope BMW now drop their idiotic push button start.

now im not trying to blow smoke up BMWs arse but you cant really blame BMW, its that EU sticking its twopenneth in again, (you know bent bananas llbs and kilos) and telling BMW/MERC/AUDI you must allow other garages to fix your product,because you cant have the monopoly on the product you designed and spent billions on. but here's an idea. You buy your new car and you get a unique pass code for the OBC that is now encrypted to 256bit AES (its do-able) if you want to take your car to an independent/franchised garage you give this code to garage where upon all work carried out is then logged onto a database,if you sell your car then the unique pass code is transferred to the new owner.if you inadvertently loose your pass code you take your car back to a main dealer who would then reset the OBC (which only they have the ability to do) and obtain a new pass code after all the security tests have been done, for this a nominal charge is paid... simples

Eight weeks for other models? Re-assuring for any BMW owner! The ultimate driving machine... I'm sure the thieves will agree!

Williams BMW also refused to acknowledge this when I went down with my car, Yet as soon as Watchdog aired the problem, the dealership was dealing with so many calls and admitting to a firmware update available in some time, it is an absolute joke, my 120d lives in Belgium now so is safer, but I still live in fear when I am back in england with my car. utter scum!

To suggest that it is 'EU competition regulations that insist that the car company’s hi-tech kit is made available to independent operators' is utter and complete rubbish!

Speaking as an autolocksmith (and police contractor/consultant) who makes his living providing keys and remotes for vehicle owners reluctant to to pay over-inflated dealer prices, I can tell you, I do my job without ANY access to BMW (or any other) dealer equipment!

We can do just about any make/model. However, most require specialized techniques and very expensive bespoke software (and often take at least an hour or two to do). The probelm with the BMW system is that it is FLAWED! Plain and simple!... Indeed, if it was not flawed, how can they possibly be suggesting that everything can be put right with a software upgrade?

Following the Thatcham argument, the same thieves will still have access to the same dealer equipment and the thefts will continue!!!.... but (after the software upgrade) they will not. For the same reason that these 'thieves' with the same (apparent) access to Merc, Audi, VW, dealer equipment are not stealing these dealers high end models... not with the same technique, anyway.

...and the suggestion that they are being stolen without breaking ANY glass is also wrong.... But, hey, let's not let the facts every get in the way of a good story!

Williams BMW in Manchester had instructions from BMW UK to call in all owners whose car was potentially at risk. They didnt bother, nor did they apply the fix when my car was in for warranty work. a day later the car was taken and trashed. Williams BMW answer, not our fault. Will never buy another BMW, especially from Williams BMW. Am going to the press and legal to see if that prompts them to take some responsibility. in the meantime avoid!

These theft have now started across the northwest and are increasing. Anyone reading this should contact there dealer and push for the upgrade asap

I was on 'You and Yours', talking about the problem of thefts of BMWs, yesterday as my wife's 08 X6 was stolen over two weeks ago; she was never told about the security problem by BMW or offered a fix. Various of us, who have also had their cars stolen, want to take legal action against BMW. Have you got anywhere with that?

As far as I can tell BMW have never contacted owners, who have subsequently had their cars stolen, about the problem and offered a fix. Their customer service stinks and I hope that their sales suffer as a result. If you try to contact their MD, you merely end up with Simon Jack, the Customer Service Manager, who they are all hiding behind.

Just had my X5 software upgrade but the dealer says it only changes the door lock /windows security problem it does not stop key cloning through the OBD port , as that would break EU law !!

What response did you get from your solicitor, we are looking to bring a class action against BMW?

Bmw's response to this security issue is nothing short of a joke. My 335d was stolen from Chiswick in October and recovered a month later. I have since had the security update performed at the dealership, however what BMW are not mentioning is this includes disabling an "access feature" which otherwise means a thief can wiggle a screwdriver in the door lock which drops both front windows giving access to the OBD port inside the car without setting off the alarm. When I contacted BMW's uk head office I was told that all luxury cars including Mercedes and Audi and susceptible to key cloning but that my BMW is simply more desirable! When I asked whether the access feature may have helped make my car more desirable to a thief the BMW rep agreed and shared she had no idea why this feature was ever designed!
I have since learned six BMWs have been stolen from a single street in Chiswick. A BMW dealership I spoke to said BMWs response to this issue has been appalling but he eluded to the sheer scale of the problem because so many cars are affected.

It is now nearly 8 months since this problem was aired on BBCs Watchdog (which I unfortunately missed) and I was none the wiser to this security flaw until 2 weeks ago, when my X5 disappeared.

Now recovered due to 'Tracker', I don't expect to get anywhere with BMW (other than to get the upgrade). However, I think Ann Robinson is well placed to dish out some well deserved bad publicity about BMWs neglect in failing to notify owners (it will also help to raise awareness). Anyone car to join me ?


Write to Watchdog at:

Watchdog, W1 NBH 07C, BBC New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A

What utterly pointless advice!!!!

Just got my 2011 X5 stolen over the weekend despite the fact, that BMW carried out a software upgrade in March 2013. Same situation as described by Eric Gallina at the beginning of the article (still have two keys, no signs of broken glass). One wonders if that software upgrade actually eradicated the security issue. Also, the thing that bothers me most is that I wasn't even made aware of the security issue by BMW and speaking to them today, they only mentioned that every car can be stolen if the thieves want to... Has anybody got any further with going after BMW for compensation?

We had a 2 motorcycles stolen recently, one of them was recovered in a worse for wear state, and we were told by the recovery guy that the police don't usually entertain people who have had modern cars stolen where no keys have been taken, but I guess when they are stolen in number they have to take notice, just goes to show that thieves will find a way to defeat even the best security in some of the best cars. Maybe BMW owners should buy their own wheel clamp or something, they'll not take them then!

My 335D was stolen just before Christmas using exactly the same method, and much like the chap in this article I was also told approx. 10 had been stolen from my area in the space of a couple of months. They drilled the lock and cloned the key, I've now replaced the car with a similar model, relocated the OBD port, and have both a Stoplock Pro and a gear shifter lock (which locks the shifter to the handbreak) as well as a completely self-contained 3rd party GPS tracking unit with a shake sensor that phones me if the car is moved at all, subsequently polling me with its position on Google maps every 2 minutes, and if necessary allows me to remotely cut the fuel supply via a relay should the worst happen. The thieves now have no chance whatsoever.

Sorry but that last paragraph I can explicitly state first hand is absolute rubbish (and leads me to question your actual knowledge full stop!) - my lock was drilled on the driver's side (the barrel was found on the ground) and NO glass was smashed whatsoever when they took my car using this method. If you look around on the forums there have been plenty of attempts on BMWs in the same manner (with photos of the damage left on the ones that didn't get away). If you don't know what you're talking about, don't bother posting at all ;)