The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says this technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them!
This so-called “mystery devices” obtained by NICB was purchased via a third-party security expert from an overseas company. Developed to provide manufacturers and other anti-theft organizations the ability to test the vulnerability of various vehicles systems, this (actually called) “Relay Attack” unit, only works on keyless remote and a push-button ignition cars and trucks.
To test, they utilized 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck in different locations. Among these, 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles were opened, and they were able to start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.
“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner. Unless someone catches the crime on a security camera, there’s no way for the owner or the police to really know what happened. Many times, they think the vehicle has been towed.”
While there may not be an effective way of preventing this kind of theft at this time, it is important for us to be vigilant on suspicious persons or activity and alert law enforcement rather than confronting a possible thief. Also, as much as possible, avoid leaving valuables inside the car in plain sight especially those that could invite break-in and can even lead to your home (i.e. garage door opener).