Six of the 11 new cars tested by Thatcham Research so far in are at risk due to vulnerable keyless entry and start systems
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
21 March 2019

A new safety rating has been designed to warn car buyers of the theft risk posed by models with insecure keyless entry systems.

Security expert Thatcham Research announced the new ratings, which will label each car as either 'superior', 'good', 'basic', 'poor' or 'unacceptable' based on their vulnerability to thieves. However, the scheme has been questioned by car industry figures for confusing the issue, rather than simplifying it.

Of the 11 cars the company has tested so far in 2019, six have received a 'poor' rating, including the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia Proceed and Porsche Macan. While the affected models had other security features described as 'good', they had no way to prevent relay attack thefts that mimic the keyless entry system without having physical access to a key.

Tested cars that earned a 'superior' rating include the Audi E-tron, Jaguar XE, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes B-Class, which all use more secure wireless technology for their keyless entry/start systems, or key fobs that go to sleep when idle.

The most vulnerable car tested under the new system was the Suzuki Jimny, which received an 'unacceptable' rating. “This car falls short by a considerable distance," Thatcham Research chief technical officer Richard Billyeald said. "This car scores consistently badly across all criteria, missing some fundamental security features that consumers might rightly expect should be fitted.”

"We've seen too many examples of cars being stolen in seconds from driveways," Billyeald added. "Most of the cars rated 'poor' would have achieved at least a 'good' rating had their keyless entry/start systems not been susceptible to the relay attack.

“Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices."

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Any car that gets rated by Thatcham and has a vulnerable keyless entry or start system will now automatically earn a 'poor' rating - a ruling that has come under scrutiny by other industry groups.

SMMT CEO Mike Hawes expressed "serious concerns" about the system's blanket approach to security.

"It doesn't compare like with like, failing to differentiate vehicles with keyless and traditional entry systems in a combined rating and failing to distinguish between different model grades and specifications," Hawes said in a statement. "It confuses rather than simplifies a very complex issue and will not help consumers, rather offering a signpost to thieves and increasing the risk of targeted criminal activity."

An official statement from manufacturer Kia said that "Thatcham has not communicated with us on this testing procedure and has not outlined how this rating was achieved," and that the group supplied a report in February rating the Proceed four stars out of a possible five on security measures.

Thatcham is an independent group that has been testing vehicle security in the UK since the 1990s and rates the security of every new car launched in the UK.

The group recommends owners of vulnerable models keep their car keys well away from household entry points when at home, and to consider investing in a Faraday shielding pouch to block signals between car and key.

READ MORE

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Comments
15

21 March 2019

It's really weird that Porsche is rated poor when Audi is rated good. They obviously share the same VW group components.

21 March 2019
Why is it that they would use the same components? Keyless theft has been a thing for years now and the brand new E-Tron, the only Audi mentioned, will have been designed with a much more robust system designed to counteract all the weaknesses of the older, more vulnerable set-ups. As fitted to the Macan...

21 March 2019

Ah the consequences of poorly tested technology. I work in IT and the number of terrible systems that are delivered because the project manager / senior management didn't budget properly for adequate testing (or want to realistically budget for it). So many scenarios for failure remain unidentified to even get tested too - a bit like keyless entry fob scanning from outside someone's house.

Usually these critical faults are found by the users themselves after go-live and major software companies have been doing it for years to save money, and even try to justify it as 'beta-testing', when that's supposed to happen before releasing the product to the general public. In other words "we haven't bothered tested this rubbish properly and now it's inconveniencing you and costing you time and money instead of us, but you'll suck it up anyway as you've got used to this kind of terrible customer service and depend on us".

It's the same with technology in cars - but let's all hail the arrival of things like automated emergency braking and autonomous cars!

 

Everyone has a right to an opinion - don't confuse that with insulting your mother :-)

21 March 2019
In the bigger picture of a lawless society they will still get our cars, just by breaking in and hitting owners with a hammer until they hand the key over. Or just taking them off vulnerable people in broad daylight.. there have been 32 cajackings in Coventry just THIS MONTH! can you imagine how many are going on nationally every day?
Car security need to jump much further ahead. Perhaps after first mile requiring a pin code or it cuts out shortly after, in built trackers, interior dashcams etc

21 March 2019
The Apprentice wrote:

In the bigger picture of a lawless society they will still get our cars, just by breaking in and hitting owners with a hammer until they hand the key over. Or just taking them off vulnerable people in broad daylight.. there have been 32 cajackings in Coventry just THIS MONTH! can you imagine how many are going on nationally every day? Car security need to jump much further ahead. Perhaps after first mile requiring a pin code or it cuts out shortly after, in built trackers, interior dashcams etc

I don't think the problem is the car - security devices are parasitic and shouldn't be needed in the first place if the law did it's job.  As it is, the police are burdened with paperwork and, even if they eventually get a conviction, the judge will let them off anyway.  But there are countries in the world where theft is not a problem.  First offence, first hand off;  second offence, second hand off;  end of problem.  Brutal, yes, effective, yes.  In fact, so visciously brutal that, in Arab countries, you'll struggle to find anyone who's had their hand cut off...  So ask yourself what you want:

a) to talk all year about the problem and still have your car stolen off your drive;

b) a solution?

21 March 2019

I wouldn't get another keyless car. It does look good in car adverts though

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

21 March 2019

Was there something wrong with keys?

21 March 2019

well, in the list of unacceptable there is a japanese, and the poor has two korean, a german and an american.

the brits, however, feature in the superior list... good old britain

21 March 2019

I think the crook lock i now use really adds to look of a quality car, not to mention making it far more inconvenient to have a keyless car than one with real keys. And because they need to be kept in pouches too they cant be kept on a normal keyring.

I cant think of a more inconvenient, useless bit of technology. 

21 March 2019

"Keyless entry systems are bad because it allows theives to gain entry in to cars. via relay systems"

Keep hearing this time and time again, but nobody can exlain what these thieves do when the car is driven out of range of the entry system. I did read one article where the author said cars are stolen to order and they sit at the dockside waiting to be shipped abroad. What they didn't say was how the car was driven on to the boat - how do they starts these cars up without the key - I assume the relay device doesn't work 200 miles away!

My other issue with this advise against keyless entry systems is people suggest simply using a key. Yeh, as if cars were never stolen when we were using keys ! 

So you've just bought a nice expensive RangeRover smug in the knowledge that Thatcham has approved it as being safe. You place your key in a Faraday bag, you've locked your steering wheel with a titanium locking device, and you've clamped all four wheels with the most expensive lock money can buy. A theif then comes along, whacks you over the head and takes your keys.

If theives want your car, they'll take it.  The best anti-theft device I have is a Skoda badge on my bonnet - simples.

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