Some of Britain’s most popular cars are vulnerable to being driven away by criminals within 10 seconds of a theft attempt beginning.
An investigation by consumer magazine What Car? found that thieves are able to exploit weaknesses in keyless entry systems by capturing the signal on one device and sending it to another next to the car, tricking the vehicle into thinking the key is nearby.
In the What Car? investigation, it took just five seconds to enter a DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige and another five to drive away. Meanwhile, researchers were able to access the Land Rover Discovery within 20 seconds but could not drive it off, though the Discovery Sport was driven away within 30 seconds.
Some manufacturers have updated their keyless entry systems to deactivate the signal when no motion is detected, such as when a key is put aside indoors.
In the test, the Audi TT RS Roadster, BMW X3, Ford Fiesta and Mercedes-Benz A-Class were all inaccessible once the key’s signal was disabled, though all could be driven away while the signal was active.
What Car? says Jaguar Land Rover is taking a different approach, using ultra-wide-band radio technology on its latest models, which uses a wide range of frequencies that criminals can’t latch onto.
Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: “It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they’ve replaced.
“It is great news that a small number of brands are taking the problem of car theft seriously, but more needs to be done to improve security, particularly of desirable used models.”
The number of car thefts in England and Wales is at an eight-year high, with more than 106,000 vehicles stolen in 2018.