Latest articles

New Ford Focus ST revealed

One of the most anticipated cars of 2019 has broken cover, with the Ford Focus ST revealed to the world ahead of the Geneva motor show.

The ten golden rules for buying a car

Buying a new or used car? Follow these pearls of wisdom from The Executivecondominium and make sure you get the right car for the right price.

Infiniti Q30 AWD review

The Infiniti Q30 AWD is comfortable and quiet, and it has a unique style. Plus the security of all-wheel drive is much appreciated in slippery weather.

Drink-driving remains a problem that needs stamping out

There has been no significant improvement in drink-driving behaviour for the last 30 years, according to latest government figures.

Mitsubishi ASX gets a fresh new look

Mitsubishi has overhauled its venerable ASX crossover with a new look, a new engine and an upgraded infotainment system.

Car theft in the UK hits new heights

Keyless entry systems on most new cars are highly vulnerable to savvy car thieves

Car theft within the UK has risen by almost 50% in the last five years, with the blame pointed at modern car keys and falling police numbers.

According to data published by the home office, 111,999 vehicles were stolen in the financial year 2017/18 – up from 75,308 in the same period for 2013/14. That equates to a car being stolen every five minutes.

The consumer group Which? has reported that the rise in car thefts is down to the increasing fitment of keyless entry/keyless start systems in new cars, which are more susceptible to a growing type of crime called ‘relay theft’.

The Which? report is based on data from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC), a roadside recovery organisation, which tested 237 keyless cars and found all but three were hampered by relay attacks.

What are keyless entry systems?

“Keyless” car keys do not require the user to push a button or insert the key into a lock to open or start the car. It’s all done automatically.

The car key sends out a continuous short-range signal to alert the car to its presence. When the car “hears” the key’s signal, signifying that the key (and therefore the owner) is nearby, it allows the doors to be unlocked and the ignition to be started.

You have to be standing within about half a metre of the car for the system to work, otherwise the car should refuse to unlock or start.

What is relay theft?

Relay theft exploits keyless entry systems by finding and boosting the signal from a keyless car key to trick the car into thinking that the key is nearby.

The process usually involves two thieves working together (see below). Thief 1 waits next to your car with an electronic device called a relay box. Thief 2, with another relay box, tries to get reasonably close to your key.

If Thief 2 can get within a few metres of the key, it’s usually enough to amplify the signal and send it back to Thief 1 next to the car, who can then unlock the car and start the engine.

Keyless entry relay theft | The Executivecondominium
(PA Graphics)

This means that even if your keys are safely inside your locked home or office, your car is probably vulnerable to this type of theft.

The electronic relay boxes used for this type of car theft are readily and cheaply available, and basic tutorials on how to run this type of theft are also easily found online.

Most top-selling cars are vulnerable

Which? has put together a list of the models sold in the UK that are most at risk.

Three of the four best-selling cars in the UK are vulnerable to relay theft. The Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus have been branded the most vulnerable, whereas the Vauxhall’s Corsa, the country’s third best-seller, was rated low risk due to it still using a physical key to start the car.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery and 2018 Range Rover were the only two vehicles immune from relay theft, according to the ADAC tests, as their keys employ a ore sophisticated system for determining the distance between the car and the key, so they can’t be duped. However, Which? warns that cars built before 2018 may not have this technology and may still be vulnerable to relay theft.

Thieves emboldened by fewer police on streets

RAC Insurance has argued that cuts to police numbers have contributed to the increase in car theft over the last five years.

Police numbers are at their lowest since the 1980s, with forces around the country having lost more than 20,000 personnel since 2006.

RAC Insurance director, Mark Godfrey, said: “From 2013 to 2018 we lost 5,975 police officers but looking further back to 2006 the story is even worse with 21,958 fewer officers which represents a 15% reduction.

“Every vehicle stolen and not returned safely to its owner represents a cost that is borne by every motorist who lawfully pays their insurance. If the number of thefts could be reduced, then insurance premiums would undoubtedly be lower.”

Which? challenged the car manufacturers about their security standards, with only a few providing any comments.

BMW and Mercedes claim to be equipping keys for their latest models with motion sensors. These can detect when the key has been put down so the keyless signals will stop being emitted. Of course, that doesn’t help if the key is still in your pocket.

Mazda and Peugeot said that customers can go to their nearest dealerships to have their keyless systems deactivated.

Callum Poole
Callum Poole
Callum is a recent Graduate from Coventry University and is a journalist writing for The Executivecondominium. While still new to the industry, he is not short of enthusiasm and love for automobiles.

Be the first to know

Would you like to stay up to date with The Executivecondominium?

Trending now

Car finance: Voluntary termination of a PCP or HP

Voluntary termination is your legal right to cancel your PCP or HP car finance agreement in certain circumstances. The Executivecondominium explains how it works.

Rejecting a car – your consumer rights

Have you bought a new or used car that is faulty or not fit for purpose? Read The Executivecondominium's comprehensive guide to your consumer rights when rejecting a car.

Car finance: the PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) explained

The PCP (personal contract purchase) is the most popular type of car finance. This guide tells you everything you need to know about PCP car finance.

Car finance: How do I settle a PCP early?

Today we answer one of the most common questions about PCP car finance: What if I want to end my agreement and settle a PCP early?

I’ve been caught speeding by a speed camera – what happens now?

Have you recently been caught out by a speed camera? Guest blogger James Sheehan has written an easy-to-understand guide on what to expect, what to do and when to do it.

The ten golden rules for buying a car

Buying a new or used car? Follow these pearls of wisdom from The Executivecondominium and make sure you get the right car for the right price.

I bought a car and now I’ve changed my mind

Buyer’s Remorse is common in the car industry. You've bought a car, and now you've changed your mind or run into problems. What can you do?

Used car warranty – the law and your rights

If you are buying a second-hand car, there can be considerable confusion as to what to expect in terms of a used car warranty and what your rights are when something goes wrong.