Tests uncover major security risk to keyless cars

thief
18 Mar, 2016 6:03pm Martin Saarinen

New tests by German vehicle experts show 24 cars from 19 different manufacturers vulnerable to an 'easily built' electronic device

Owners of cars with keyless technology are being warned to stay more vigilant after German vehicle experts showed thieves could bypass the central locking and start the engine of 24 different cars and vans with an ‘easily built’ electronic device.

The German automotive organisation ADAC - the German equivalent to organisations like the AA - tested 24 different vehicles with keyless technology from 19 different manufacturers like Audi and SsangYong, and found every single one could be broken into using a simple homemade electronic device. 

Keyless technology allows drivers to enter and start their vehicle without using the key – the car using sensors to communicate with the key in proximity and authorise start-up. A feature commonly found in premium makes like BMW and Audi, it’s slowly trickling down to more mainstream brands, and even vans like the Renault Trafic now feature the technology.  

Keyless car crime up as gangs target vans

One way the thieves operate is by following the owner and using an electronic device to extend the range of the owner's key. A second thief then waits by the car and uses the signal to access the vehicle and start it. 

Auto Express previously reported on how criminal gangs in London are taking advantage of the technology. In 2014, thieves managed to steal up to 17 cars a day in London, netting over 6,000 cars over the course of the year. A study last year also found electronic immobilisers used by 26 manufacturers are vulnerable to hacking, putting over 100 models at risk.  

Although carmakers are coming up with new countermeasures to tackle thieves, ADAC says, “Owners of cars with keyless locking systems should exercise increased vigilance in the storage of the key.”

The organisation added: “It’s the duty of all car manufacturers to get rid of this problem. It makes no sense that this more expensive locking system is way easier to break into than the normal one.”

Which keyless cars failed the ADAC security test?

The below table shows the test results from ADAC's findings in Germany: 

Manufacturer Model Model year Able to illegally open doors Able to illegally start engine

 Audi

A3

2015

Yes

Yes

A4

2015

Yes

Yes

A6

2015

Yes

Yes

BMW

730d

2015

Yes

Yes

Citroen

DS4 Crossback

2014

Yes

Yes

Ford

Galaxy

2015

Yes

Yes

Eco-Sport

2015

Yes

Yes

Honda

HR-V

2015

Yes

Yes

Hyundai

Santa Fe

2015

Yes

Yes

KIA

Optima

2015

Yes

Yes

Lexus

RX 450h

2015

Yes

Yes

Range Rover

Evoque

2015

Yes

Yes

Renault

Trafic

2015

Yes

Yes

Mazda

CX-5

2015

Yes

Yes

MINI

Clubman

2015

Yes

Yes

Mitsubishi

Outlander

2013

Yes

Yes

Nissan

Qashqai+2

2013

Yes

Yes

Leaf

2012

Yes

Yes

Vauxhall

Ampera

2012

Yes

Yes

SSangYong

Tivoli XDi

2015

Yes

Yes

Subaru

Levorg

2015

Yes

Yes

Toyota

RAV4

2015

Yes

Yes

VW

Golf GTD

2013

Yes

Yes

Touran 5T

2015

Yes

Yes

Source: ADAC

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