Ford Fiesta, VW Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus among those vulnerable, says Which?
Most of the UK’s most popular cars are at risk of theft using technology that exploits keyless entry, according to a report.
The Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus – four of the top five models sold in the UK – are among the popular cars that are susceptible to theft using “cheap electronic equipment bought online”, the consumer group Which? said.
Keyless entry systems enable cars to start if a fob is nearby. However, thieves using relay devices to boost the signal can trick the cars’ sensors into thinking the keyless fob is closer than it is, enabling them to open and start a vehicle even when the fob remains in the owner’s house.
Which? analysed data from the German General Automobile Club (ADAC) which found security flaws in 99% of the models tested. It tested 237 keyless cars and found only seven were not susceptible to being both unlocked and started.
Only three models – all from Jaguar Land Rover – were completely impervious to attempts to unlock or start their engines. The latest versions of the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover, as well as the Jaguar i-Pace, use technology that can more accurately determine the distance from the car.
ADAC found more than 30 brands have made insecure cars, including Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda and Volvo.
Of the top five models sold in the UK, only the Vauxhall Corsa was not vulnerable to the relay attack, because it is not available with keyless entry.
Which? said carmakers have sacrificed the security of scores of modern cars for the sake of convenience.
It said thieves have been using the relay attack for several years. But the number of vehicles that can be stolen in this way has rocketed because many manufacturers have done nothing to protect their cars from this attack.
Which? found it can take as little as 18 seconds to take a car using the relay method.
Ford, one of the manufacturers contacted by Which? for comment on the findings, advised owners to keep their fob in a metal case to prevent thieves from hijacking the signal. Some Mercedes, Mazda and Peugeot owners can have the keyless entry system turned off.
BMW and Mercedes have also introduced motion sensors in their keyless fobs, meaning no signals are sent if they are not moving.
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