Tests uncover major security risk to keyless cars

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

thief

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: 

ManufacturerModelModel yearAble to illegally open doorsAble 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

Have there been incidents of car hacking where you live? Tell us in the comments below...

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