The technology in our cars is advancing by leaps and bounds, but as far as vehicles have come with automated features and expanded entertainment options, thwarting the car thief has proven to be an elusive endeavor.
York Regional Police recently reported more than 2,000 vehicles have been stolen in their jurisdiction over the past year, and they are noting the criminals are using technology to their advantage. They start by identifying high-end vehicles in public places — like a shopping mall parking lot — and place an “air tag” tracking devices discreetly on the vehicle. This allows them to follow the vehicle to the owner’s house where they use more technology — an electronic device used to reprogram a car’s factory setting — to hack into a car’s computer and re-program it to accept the key they brought with them.
The car thieves then simply drive the car away.
Car thieves have also been known to steal a car by relaying the signals of the contactless key to give them a method to gain access to and start the car without having the key present. Two thieves work in tandem — one uses a transmitter in close proximity to the car key and the other has a receiver beside the car. If a vehicle owner stores their keys just inside the front door (quite a common practice), the transmitter will pick up that signal and relay it to the accomplice at the car, allowing them to get the door open and start the vehicle without causing it any damage.
“These acts may seem like technological voodoo, but they can actually be quite easy for criminals to pull off,” says Tony Anscombe, Chief Security Evangelist with ESET Canada. “All it takes is the right equipment, which is easily accessible, and as technology advances, this equipment becomes cheaper and cheaper.”
Car owners are not powerless against this, but interestingly enough many of the solutions against these high-tech crimes are decidedly low-tech:
· Protect your keys. Key to thwarting the thieves is to deny them access to the signal from your key fob. This can be accomplished with something as simple as a tin box for storing keys, or storing your keys away from the front door of your home. A secure faraday pouch or bag will also block theft of the fob’s signal, especially if you are out and about.
· Conceal your vehicle. It is a wise idea to store your expensive car in a locked garage.
· Secure your vehicle. If a garage is not an option, simply locking your doors will not be enough of a deterrent for a determined criminal. An alarm system helps, and a steering wheel lock is not only effective, but it is also a visual deterrent from even trying to steal your car.
· Lock the data port. The car’s OBD data port is where thieves will access your car’s computer. A simple lock can be purchased online that will protect this port from being accessed by unauthorized folks.
· Get it on video. Surveillance cameras trained on your driveway will record any activity there. Today’s systems are advanced elements of your smart home, and many allow remote access so you can keep an eye on your property from a far.