Well now we know one way thieves are hacking into vehicles and driving them off. It’s through the device pictured above, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The new technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them.
So what are these so-called “mystery devices” that the public was first warned about over two years ago? (At the time, thieves were being seen on security cameras across the country, using unknown devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables inside.)
Well the device is called a “Relay Attack” unit. This particular model only works on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and a push-button ignition. Basically, if you can get it near a key fob, it can capture the fob’s signal. It sends it to another smaller device which uses the signal to unlock the car.
Over a two-week period, NICB testers used the device to try to open 35 different makes and models of vehicles including one pickup truck. The end result is the device opened 54 percent of the vehicles and was used to start and drive away 51 percent of them. Note, this is just one device in sea of many for use by thieves. The NICB says more expensive models may have a greater range and better capabilities for opening and starting a vehicle.
“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.”
According to NICB’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who oversees all NICB investigations, vehicle manufacturers must continue their efforts to counter the attacks on anti-theft technology.
“Vehicles are a valuable commodity and thieves will continue to wage a tug of war with the manufacturers to find a way to steal them,” said Schweitzer. “Anti-theft technology has been a major factor in reducing the number of thefts over the past 25 years. The manufacturers have made tremendous strides with their technology, but now they have to adapt and develop countermeasures as threats like this surface.”
There really is no way to combat this form of crime yet. The best way to avoid being a victim is to never leave valuables inside of a car, and park a car in a closed garage if possible.