A new previously unknown device is enabling thieves to enter vehicles, start them, and get away in seconds
There is no doubt that the trend towards smarter cars has many advantages. The new possibilities, however, are also bringing us new risks. Following a number of car break-ins in the United States, investigators managed to get their hands on close-up security camera films of the crimes.
These clearly showed that the thieves used a mysterious and previously unknown device. The investigators are now revealing the new device, which enables thieves to simply enter a vehicle, start it, and get away easily and quickly.
High success ratios
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the American insurance industry’s investigative agency, has discovered what its calls a “new and mysterious” device that enables thieves to break into vehicles, start them, and disappear within seconds without leaving any tracks. After the organization managed to get its hand on the device, it conducted a sample test on 35 vehicles made by various manufacturers.
The results were both impressive and frightening. The testers succeeded in opening the doors and entering 19 vehicles, amounting to 54% of the sample. The testers also managed to start 18 of the 19 vehicles they opened, equaling 51% of the total sample.
The testers successfully drove all the vehicles they started wherever they wanted to go. They also managed to restart 12 of the vehicles with the device when the keys were not in the vicinity of the vehicle. Among the car models exposed to this method of stealing are several models sold in Israel, such as the Chevrolet Impala, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, the Toyota Camry, and others.
The NICB investigators said that this burglary method required two thieves lying in wait for a car owner to park his car. The first thief passes near the car owner when the owner uses the remote control installed in the car keys to lock the car. What the car owner doesn’t know is that the thief is holding a device that operates as a relay station. This device receives and broadcasts the signal from the car owner’s keys.
The second thief waiting nearby holds another device that receives the signals and begins broadcasting them to a nearby vehicle. When the victim is already far away from his parked car, the thieves enter the vehicle, start it, and make their getaway. According to the NICB, the device works only on cars with remote locking and an ignition button. It is ineffective with cars that require the physical presence of the key in the switch.
The device was originally developed by engineers to test weaknesses in auto security systems. As is frequently the case, however, it got into the wrong hands. The NICB says that it acquired the device from a European intermediary. The device is believed to cost more than $60,000.