Gone in 10 seconds: Thieves able to drive away some of Britain’s most popular cars in a matter of seconds

Gone in 10 seconds: Thieves able to drive away some of Britain’s most popular cars in a matter of seconds
Gone in 10 seconds: Thieves able to drive away some of Britain’s most popular cars in a matter of seconds

Some of Britain’s newest and most popular cars can be broken into and driven away in as little as 10 seconds, according to new research.

Car thefts across the UK have risen almost 50 per cent in the last five years, a rise blamed partly on the use of “keyless” entry systems.

Vulnerabilities in such systems have previously been exposed by security experts Thatcham Research and consumer group Which?.

Now, testing by What Car? has found that certain models can be entered and started in between 10 and 60 seconds using relay attacks which intercept signals from the key fob.

Easy targets

Testing of seven models found that it took security experts just five seconds to gain access to the DS3 Crossback and another five seconds to start the engine and drive away.

The DS3 Crossback took just 10 seconds to break into and start. (Picture: What Car?)

The recently replaced Land Rover Discovery Sport could also be broken into and driven away in just 30 seconds.

And Audi’s TTRS sports coupe also took just 10 seconds to steal under certain conditions. However, it and other models proved impossible to steal in other circumstances thanks to recently introduced technology.

Motion-detection

Manufacturers including Ford, Audi, Mercedes and BMW have introduced motion-sensitive fobs which deactivate after a period of being stationary. This means once a driver puts their key down, for instance when they get home, it stops broadcasting a signal, making it impossible to intercept.

car theft
The Audi TTRS proved impossible to steal when its motion-sensitive key was inactive but took just 10 seconds to get going when the signal could be intercepted. (Picture: What Car?)

When working such systems stopped the What Car? Testers from being able to access four of the tested cars – the TTRS, Mercedes A-Class, BMW X3 and Ford Fiesta.

However, What Car?’s experts warned that such systems are still vulnerable to interception when being carried and are still not widely available.

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they’ve replaced.

“It is great news that a small number of brands are taking the problem of car theft seriously, but more needs to be done to improve security, particularly of desirable used models.”

Ongoing battle

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “Vehicle manufacturers are continually investing and developing new security features – including motion sensing key fobs and other technologies – to try and stay one step ahead of criminals, which is an ongoing and extremely costly battle.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new countermeasures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars.”

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