UK proposes tougher laws to combat keyless car theft, says Tracker

Waist up portrait of the car thief with laptop hacking alarm system while standing near the car at the daytime.

Tracker has welcomed a proposed new law to prevent the sale of easily accessible equipment that thieves use to compromise car security.

In 2022, Tracker recovered 93% of all stolen vehicles that had been taken without a key.

The government announced plans to make it illegal to possess, manufacture, modify, supply, or import technology used to steal cars, with a possible five-year jail penalty, during the King’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament.

This includes devices that intercept keyless car fob signals and tools that jam GPS tracking technology.

Mark Rose, managing director of Tracker, said: “We have been reporting on the increase in keyless car thefts for many years, but more so recently as the frequency has been accelerating at an alarming rate.

“In the first half of this year, we recovered nearly 40% more stolen cars than in the same period in 2022, with almost every vehicle having been taken without the criminals having possession of the car keys.

“It’s fair to say that keyless car theft is now an everyday occurrence, with thieves using multiple means to overcome the very technology meant to protect vehicles from being stolen.

“This is because the tools used to do this have become incredibly easy to obtain and can be operated by even the most inexperienced thieves.”

One very popular method for keyless car theft is the relay attack. This occurs when two thieves collaborate to intercept a short-range key fob signal, usually when the victim’s residence is where the key fob is located, utilising an electrical relay.

Hacking a car’s circuit board or controller area network (CAN) bus is another relatively new technique for turning off alarms and locking systems.

Both methods enable thieves to gain entry to a vehicle and drive off within seconds.

Thieves also regularly makes use of GPS jammers. By interfering with signals to and from GPS satellite devices, these low-cost devices effectively make a stolen and monitored car vanish from sight. Tracker’s stolen vehicle recovery units are impervious to GPS jamming thanks to its VHF equipped with GPS/GSM technology.

Rose continued: “Robust laws that crack down on people supplying and buying these devices is long overdue.

“If this new legislation makes it harder for thieves to get hold of the technology in the first place and sees those caught possessing them being given a jail sentence, it should go a significant way in tackling the problem.”

In order to support the fight against organised vehicle theft rings, Tracker collaborates with all UK police forces.

It also supported the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) announcement earlier this year that it was working with the Home Office to identify ways in which legislation can stop the sale of devices that are assisting thieves to make keyless thefts.

Tracker’s top tips for vehicle security

Protect your key fob: Keyless car theft works through a relay-style electronic device tricking your key fob signal into thinking the key is near to the car and then the device can assume all key fob power.

To prevent this, keep the key – and the spare too – away from where the vehicle is kept when not in use, and block the signal by keeping the key fob in a closed tin or Faraday bag.

Switch off and lock up: Never leave your car running idle and unattended, even when defrosting windscreens and windows on a cold morning.

Make life difficult: Fit security posts or a substantial gate if parking on your drive, physical barriers will make thieves think twice.

Don’t advertise your stuff: Never leave your belongings on show, lock them in the boot or take them with you.

Keep paperwork indoors: Don’t store car documents or spare keys inside the car as it makes it easier for thieves to sell it on.

Plan for the worst: Take car security measures to protect your car from being stolen in the first place, such as installing security lighting where you park your car and using a steering wheel lock.

If criminals find a way to steal your car, having a vehicle tracker fitted can help the authorities to recover your vehicle.

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