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Keyless car crime - what are car manufacturers doing to prevent it?

Cars with keyless entry systems can be stolen far more quickly and easily than those with conventional locks and ignitions, so what are car makers doing to protect them?...

Keyless car crime
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Claire Evans
8 Jul 2019 14:00

Alfa Romeo / Fiat / Jeep

Higher-end trim levels on some Alfa Romeo models have keyless entry as standard, including the Stelvio Milano and Giulia Veloce as part of the Convenience pack. It is also available on some Fiat and Jeep models. We do not believe any systems have motion sensor technology. If you buy a car with keyless entry and are concerned about security, we recommend keeping the key in a Faraday-type pouch and asking your dealer if it can be disabled. 


Audi / Skoda / Seat / Volkswagen (Volkswagen Group)

Although keyless start is standard on many Audi models, keyless entry is an option, as part of the Comfort and Sound pack on some models including the A6 Allroad,  TT RS and E-tron. Advanced Key fobs are fitted with motion sensor technology, which cuts in if the key hasn’t moved for 15 minutes; there is no means of activating it immediately, though. The system can be deactivated by the owner/dealer on certain models.  

The Volkswagen Group has started to introduce key fobs with motion sensor technology to Volkswagen models, with the Passat the first to get it as an optional extra on SE and SEL trim levels and standard on R-Line trim level upwards.

A Volkswagen Group spokesperson stated: “The Volkswagen Group takes the illegal use of radio path lengthening systems very seriously. We are continually working on improving our security measures in order to hinder or prevent such manipulation, and are in close contact with the authorities on this matter.

Keyless Access is a convenience feature that is actively sought by our customers. We continuously and very closely observe how vehicle thieves work and discuss this topic with police authorities and the insurance industry. Our locking and opening systems have been tested and approved in accordance with legal requirements.

Please understand that we are unable to comment on the technical aspects of theft prevention measures because such information could be used by third parties to the detriment of our customers.”


BMW / Mini

Keyless car crime

The Comfort Access feature, which provides a digital key fob with keyless entry, is standard on many trim levels of BMW models including the new 1 SeriesBMW X3 and X6. In addition, motion sensor technology was introduced to all key fobs in 2018, so all cars produced since then will be less vulnerable to theft.

The motion sensor key shuts down if it's not used for a set time (we believe this is two minutes). We believe the motion sensor technology can also be activated immediately by pressing a button on the key fob. 

Owners of some older BMW and Mini models can pay to upgrade their keys to ones with motion sensor technology; the price of this differs between models. 

A spokesman commented: “Every single case we are aware of where a relay attack method has been used is when the key is left unattended and not in a pocket – hence our approach to the solution.” 


Citroën / DS / Peugeot (PSA Group)

The range-topping DS 3 Crossback Ultra Prestige trim level comes with keyless access as standard, and it's also on Prestige and Ultra Prestige versions of the DS 7 Crossback. It is also standard on certain trim levels of many Citroen and Peugeot models. 

The system doesn’t have motion sensor technology to prevent theft, but it can be deactivated and if owners would like extra reassurance PSA Group recommends they contact an authorised dealer. 

Keyless car crime

A PSA Group spokesperson said: “Vehicle security is an issue that Groupe PSA takes very seriously. Groupe PSA considers the subject of ‘Relay Attack’ with the same importance it gives to any tools that facilitate vehicle theft. Groupe PSA created a dedicated division in order to analyse and treat potential or proven weaknesses of vehicle security, including to monitor statistics and internet activity. Groupe PSA works closely with the Police and regulatory authorities in order to analyse theft methods.

“On these latest vehicles, keyless entry functions can be deactivated. If a customer would like extra assurance, they should contact their authorised retailer for assistance.”


Ford 

The following Ford models come with keyless entry as standard: 

Ford made motion sensor key fobs standard on all new Fiestas and Focus models from May 2019, and it is rolling out the technology across its model range. 

Keyless car crime

The technology is also available for some older cars. Owners of all current-generation Fiesta (from 2017) and Focus (from 2018) models can upgrade their keys to ones with motion sensor fobs. This costs from £65 per key for the Fiesta, and £72 for the Focus, plus 0.9 hours labour to programme and test the replacement keys.  

It is possible for owners to disable the keyless system on their car’s instrument cluster, using the toggle switches on the steering wheel to navigate to vehicle settings. 


Honda 

All Honda models except entry-level SE trim levels have keyless entry. We do not believe the key fobs have motion sensor technology. Owners who are concerned about security should keep the keys in a secure Faraday pouch and contact their dealer to ask if the system can be deactivated.

A spokesperson stated: “Safety and security of our products and technologies is a foremost priority for Honda. Overall, Honda takes the safety and security of electrical control systems extremely seriously and as such, we will continuously work to improve and upgrade the system to further ensure customer confidence in Honda products.”


Hyundai 

Hyundai declined to comment on car security and keyless entry systems. Some Hyundai models have Smart Key keyless entry systems as standard. We believe their fobs don’t have motion sensor technology; owners who are concerned about security should keep the keys in a secure Faraday pouch and contact their dealer to ask if the system can be deactivated. 

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