Currently reading: Car thieves can steal some popular cars in 10 seconds, finds probe
A What Car? investigation has found significant failings in some manufacturer’s theft-prevention systems
Felix Page Autocar writer
News
4 mins read
8 August 2019

Major security shortcomings in some of Britain's most popular cars have been revealed by Autocar's sibling brand What Car?. Certain models are at risk of being stolen in a matter of seconds.

Three cars scored particularly poorly in What Car?’s keyless technology investigation. The worst performing was the new DS 3 Crossback, in top-spec Ultra Prestige guise, which could be entered and started in as little as 10 seconds using key code grabbing technology. 

The Audi TT RS Roadster could be driven away in the same timeframe, but only if its keyless entry system was active and anti-theft motion sensor technology had not disabled the keyfob. With these preventative measures in place, the car could not be entered or driven. 

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport test car performed better, although could still be stolen in 30 seconds because it was not equipped with Jaguar Land Rover’s new ultra-wide-band radio technology, which prevents replication of the key’s radar signal by transmitting on a wide range of frequencies. This system is available on current models. 

Best performing in the tests were BMW’s X3 SUV and the Ford Fiesta. It took What Car?’s security experts 40 seconds to gain entry to each vehicle, and another 20 to drive them away.

Some brands, including BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have rolled out motion detector technology which effectively shuts down a key’s radar signal when it is not in use. This makes it more difficult for thieves to use a scanner to lock onto the signal and gain entry to the vehicle. 

Of the seven models tested by What Car?’s security experts, none could be stolen when their keyfobs had been deactivated, although this functionality has not been universally adopted by manufacturers. 

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford 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 used models.”

Reacting to the results of the survey, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “Vehicle manufacturers are continually investing and developing new security features – including motion sensing key fobs and other technologies - to try and stay one step ahead of criminals, which is an ongoing and extremely costly battle.

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"There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new counter-measures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars.”

Earlier this year, security expert Thatcham Research detailed a new five-tier vehicle security rating system, ranging from ‘unacceptable’ to ‘superior’, depending on a car’s vulnerability to theft. The new system was designed in response to a spike in driveway car thefts, made easier by modern keyless entry technology. 

In May, vehicle security firm Tracker revealed the top 10 most stolen vehicles in the UK, with premium SUVs like the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport shown to be among the most vulnerable. 

The group recommends owners of sought-after models to keep their car keys well away from household entry points, and to invest in a Faraday shielding pouch to block signals between car and key.

The full results of What Car?’s security investigation can be found below:

Audi TT RS Roadster

Advanced Key inactiveGet into car - Not possibleDrive away - Not possible

Advanced Key active Get into car - 5 seconds Drive away - 5 seconds 

BMW X3

Digital Smart key inactiveGet into car - Not possibleDrive Away - Not possible

Digital Smart key active

Get into car - 40 secondsDrive away - 20 seconds

DS3 Crossback

Standard key

Get into car - 5 seconds Drive away - 5 seconds

Ford Fiesta

Sleeping key fob inactiveGet into car - Not possibleDrive away - Not possible

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Sleeping key fob activeGet into car - 40 secondsDrive away - 20 seconds

Land Rover Discovery

Standard KeyGet into car - 20 secondsDrive away - Not possible

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Standard keyGet into car - 10 secondsDrive away - 20 seconds

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Keyless-Go key fob inactive Get into car - Not possible Drive away - Not possible

Keyless-Go key fob active Get into car - 30 seconds Drive away - 20 seconds

Read more

Cars vulnerable to keyless theft highlighted by new ratings​

The most stolen cars in the UK​

New cyber security standard to help prevent car hacking​

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Thekrankis 8 August 2019

Pffffft!

No point having fancy key tech and then leaving your keys within easy access of a window or door.

Or worse lying around in full view at your place of work.

LucyP 8 August 2019

No one will ever steal that DS (Citroen)!

So it doesn't matter!

No one will ever buy one in the first place!

They start at £31,000! For a 1.2 3 cylinder! Automatic or nothing! The Autocar review gives it 3 stars and tells you that a Q2 is similar money! 

You could leave the fob inside, with a sign on the window saying so, and the thieves would still be trying to grab the fob/code for your neighbour's Q2 S Line through their letterbox!

superstevie 8 August 2019

LucyP wrote:

LucyP wrote:

So it doesn't matter!

No one will ever buy one in the first place!

They start at £31,000! For a 1.2 3 cylinder! Automatic or nothing! The Autocar review gives it 3 stars and tells you that a Q2 is similar money! 

You could leave the fob inside, with a sign on the window saying so, and the thieves would still be trying to grab the fob/code for your neighbour's Q2 S Line through their letterbox!

You might want to check your figures...prices start at £21555 for a 1.2 manual. Q2 starts at £22595 for similar spec. I would much rather have the DS to the Audi

LucyP 8 August 2019

No they don't Superstevie!

Read the article again! It features the (and I quote)

"New DS 3 Crossback Ultra Prestige was easy prey for What Car?'s theft experts

Ultra Prestige starts at £31,000, as I said. Check the DS configurator!

michael knight 8 August 2019

Pretty damning. I'd like

Pretty damning. I'd like Autocar to follow-up with the brands on this data. 

At this rate your phone, an almost throwaway product is more secure with fingerprint access, than a £50K car.

Car companies should be rated on security across a standardized test, just as they are with economy or perfomance.

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