In Depth

The seven new cars most vulnerable to keyless theft

Study finds only four of the 11 vehicles tested can withstand ‘relay’ attack

The majority of new cars on the market have security flaws in their keyless entry systems that make them vulnerable to theft, a study has found. 

Independent vehicle testing agency Thatcham Research ranked the keyless entry systems on 11 new cars as either “superior”, “good”, “poor” or “unacceptable”, depending on their vulnerability to theft, Autocar reports. 

Of the cars tested, six were deemed to have “poor” security features, including the new Toyota Corolla hatchback and Porsche Macan SUV, while the Suzuki Jimny received an “unacceptable” rating. 

Keyless entry systems allow drivers to access their car at the press of a button, provided their vehicle’s fob is nearby. But car thieves can use a pair on sensors to trick a vehicle’s keyless system, says motoring site Leasing.com

Known as a “relay” attack, one person stands near the victim’s house with a transmitter that is used to bounce the signal from the keyless fob inside the property to another person standing near the vehicle.

The vehicles in the test that were labelled “poor” would have been given a “good” rating “had their keyless entry systems not been susceptible to the relay attack”, says news site Motoring Research

Only four cars, including the Audi’s all-electric E-tron and the new Range Rover Evoque, where given “superior” ratings, because they had “more secure wireless technology” and fobs that “go to sleep when idle”, the site reports. 

The chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, Richard Billyeald, said: “Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices.”

Billyeald praised the systems on the four vehicles with a “superior” rank, saying they prove that there are “solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models”.

However, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mikes Hawes, expressed “serious concerns” about the study. 

He argues that the research doesn’t take into account the different versions of certain models, nor “differentiate vehicles with keyless and traditional entry systems”. 

“It confuses rather than simplifies a very complex issue and will not help consumers, rather offering a signpost to thieves and increasing the risk of targeted criminal activity”, said Hawes. 

Here are all the cars tested by Thatcham: 

The cars given “poor” and “unacceptable” ratings 
  • Ford Mondeo
  • Hyundai Nexo
  • Kia Proceed
  • Lexus UX
  • Porsche Macan
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Suzuki Jimny (unacceptable)
And the vehicles that received a “superior” rating

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