Is your car at risk of a ‘relay attack’ theft? Read our guide to this all-new method of high-tech keyless car theft

It’s been revealed that 86 per cent of cars with keyless entry systems are at risk of being stolen by criminals using the latest hi-tech theft technique – a ‘relay attack’.

Here’s all you need to know about this new method employed by crooks to steal cars without needing a key, or having to force their way into the vehicle.

What is a ‘relay attack’ theft?

This is the latest high-tech tactic used by crooks to steal your motor without the need to physically break an entry into your home or car.

Crooks work in pairs by standing near the property’s door and picking up a signal from a car’s keyless entry system. Their relay boosts this signal to reach a second unit next next to the car.

This unit fools the car into thinking the key is within range – allowing the thief to unlock the door, rob the car, or simply drive it away. All this possible in just a few minutes.

The video, above, provided by West Midlands Police, shows a real-life ‘relay attack’, where thieves use the signal from the owner’s key to gain entry and drive away the Mercedes.The car has not been recovered following the theft, which happened in the Elmdon area of Solihull overnight on 24 September.

This won’t happen to me though, will it?

Gone are the days when crooks needed to force their way into a vehicle - techniques such as relay attacks have made life much easier for the bad guys

Gone are the days when crooks needed to force their way into a vehicle – techniques such as relay attacks have made life much easier for the bad guys. Credit: Thinkstock/simonkr

Figures from car security firm, Tracker, reveal 96 per cent of the motorists it surveyed were leaving themselves vulnerable to criminals using this method of car theft.

The firm says that in 2016, 66 per cent of thefts from its customers were by ‘relay attack’.

How can I protect myself from ‘relay theft’?

The Tracker survey revealed 25 per cent of drivers admit to leaving keys in their hallway – one of the easiest places to pick up the signal when standing outside a property.

Simply putting the key out of sight will not work, because it’s the ‘signal’ that crooks are intercepting and using to open and start the car.

Where should I put my keys to keep my car safe?

Find out how keyless entry systems could put your vehicle at risk of theft. Credit: Vimeo

Find out how keyless entry systems could put your vehicle at risk of theft. Credit: Vimeo

Successfully keeping your car out of harm’s way will involve blocking the signal emitted by the key.Walls and cupboards offer little protection to ‘relay theft’, but encasing the key in metal will offer much more protection.

Signal-blocking ‘Faraday wallets’ are available, but you can save cash and keep your car safe by placing keys in a tin or microwave overnight. This will effectively block the signal from reaching the crooks’ relays.

Check with your dealer see if your keyless entry system can be turned off at night. If possible, this will ensure you’re protected from ‘relay theft’ attacks.

Where are people currently leaving their keys?

The data from Tracker reveals many of us are leaving keys in locations that put them at risk of a relay attack. Just four per cent of owners are placing them in a metal container to block the signal. Here’s where we’re placing our keys.

  1. In the hallway – either on a table or in a bag or coat pocket 25%
  2. A dedicated key pot or key hook elsewhere in the house 25%
  3. In a draw downstairs 16%
  4. In my bedroom 12%
  5. A combination of 1-4 above 10%
  6. Somewhere in the house – I usually have to hunt for them in the morning 8%
  7. A metal container to ensure it is protected from a relay attack 4%

What sort of keys are at risk from ‘relay theft’

If your car has a keyless entry system, then it’s at risk of ‘relay theft’. These are the vehicles where you can stand close to a car and open the door without pushing a button. These are also the cars where you can start the vehicle without inserting a key.


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