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The seven new cars most vulnerable to keyless theft

The Week logo The Week 21/03/2019 Cameron Tait
a close up of a person in a car using a cell phone © Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

The majority of new cars on the market have security flaws in their keyless entry systems that make them vulnerable to theft, a study has found. 

Independent vehicle testing agency Thatcham Research ranked the keyless entry systems on 11 new cars as either “superior”, “good”, “poor” or “unacceptable”, depending on their vulnerability to theft, Autocar reports. 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 13:    Ford Mondeo Wagon ST-line familiy car of the fith generation front view on display at Brussels Expo on January 13, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Ford mondeo or Ford Contour or Mercury Mystique or Ford Fusion is available as fastback and estate car with various petrol and diesel engines and trim levels.  (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images) © Sjoerd van der Wal 2018 BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 13: Ford Mondeo Wagon ST-line familiy car of the fith generation front view on display at Brussels Expo on January 13, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Ford mondeo or Ford Contour or Mercury Mystique or Ford Fusion is available as fastback and estate car with various petrol and diesel engines and trim levels. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images) Of the cars tested, six were deemed to have “poor” security features, including the new Toyota Corolla hatchback and Porsche Macan SUV, while the Suzuki Jimny received an “unacceptable” rating. 

Keyless entry systems allow drivers to access their car at the press of a button, provided their vehicle’s fob is nearby. But car thieves can use a pair on sensors to trick a vehicle’s keyless system, says motoring site Leasing.com. 

JAPAN - OCTOBER 10:  Toyota Unveils New Corolla In Japan On October 10, 2006 - Toyota Motor Corporation's President Katsuaki Watanabe announced today the Japan sales launch of the completely redesigned Corolla sedan-now known as the Corolla Axio and completely redesigned Corolla Fielder small station wagon through 'Toyota Corolla' dealers nationwide.  (Photo by Kurita KAKU/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) © 2011 Gamma-Rapho JAPAN - OCTOBER 10: Toyota Unveils New Corolla In Japan On October 10, 2006 - Toyota Motor Corporation's President Katsuaki Watanabe announced today the Japan sales launch of the completely redesigned Corolla sedan-now known as the Corolla Axio and completely redesigned Corolla Fielder small station wagon through 'Toyota Corolla' dealers nationwide. (Photo by Kurita KAKU/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) Known as a “relay” attack, one person stands near the victim’s house with a transmitter that is used to bounce the signal from the keyless fob inside the property to another person standing near the vehicle.

The vehicles in the test that were labelled “poor” would have been given a “good” rating “had their keyless entry systems not been susceptible to the relay attack”, says news site Motoring Research. 

The logo of Kia is seen on the new Kia Proceed car during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau © Thomson Reuters The logo of Kia is seen on the new Kia Proceed car during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau Only four cars, including the Audi’s all-electric E-tron and the new Range Rover Evoque, where given “superior” ratings, because they had “more secure wireless technology” and fobs that “go to sleep when idle”, the site reports. 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 13:    Porsche Macan luxury compact SUV car front view on display at Brussels Expo on January 13, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Macan is availble with various petrol and diesel engines and trim levels, including the Macan, Macan S, Macan S Diesel, Macan GTS and the Macan Turbo. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images) © Sjoerd van der Wal 2018 BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 13: Porsche Macan luxury compact SUV car front view on display at Brussels Expo on January 13, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The Macan is availble with various petrol and diesel engines and trim levels, including the Macan, Macan S, Macan S Diesel, Macan GTS and the Macan Turbo. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images) The chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, Richard Billyeald, said: “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.”

Billyeald praised the systems on the four vehicles with a “superior” rank, saying they prove that there are “solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models”.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 18:  The new Lexus UX 250h is exposed at the 97th Brussels Motor Show on January 18, 2019  (Photo by Didier Messens/Getty Images) © 2019 Didier Messens BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 18: The new Lexus UX 250h is exposed at the 97th Brussels Motor Show on January 18, 2019 (Photo by Didier Messens/Getty Images) However, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mikes Hawes, expressed “serious concerns” about the study. 

He argues that the research doesn’t take into account the different versions of certain models, nor “differentiate vehicles with keyless and traditional entry systems”. 

The Suzuki Jimny car is pictured during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier © Thomson Reuters The Suzuki Jimny car is pictured during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier “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”, said Hawes. 

Here are all the cars tested by Thatcham: 

The Nexo, a hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle, is presented at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 8, 2018.                
Hyundai on Monday unveiled a hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle aimed at showcasing its newest technologies, bucking the all-electric trend of most rival automakers. The South Korean manufacturer used the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show to debut its Nexo, a sport utility vehicle which uses voice commands, artificial intelligence and can be transformed into an autonomous car.
 / AFP PHOTO / Rob Lever / TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Bucking trend, Hyundai bets on hydrogen fuel cell for new car'        (Photo credit should read ROB LEVER/AFP/Getty Images) The Nexo, a hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle, is presented at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 8, 2018. Hyundai on Monday unveiled a hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle aimed at showcasing its newest technologies, bucking the all-electric trend of most rival automakers. The South Korean manufacturer used the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show to debut its Nexo, a sport utility vehicle which uses voice commands, artificial intelligence and can be transformed into an autonomous car. / AFP PHOTO / Rob Lever / TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Bucking trend, Hyundai bets on hydrogen fuel cell for new car' (Photo credit should read ROB LEVER/AFP/Getty Images) The cars given “poor” and “unacceptable” ratings

  • Ford Mondeo
  • Hyundai Nexo
  • Kia Proceed
  • Lexus UX
  • Porsche Macan
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Suzuki Jimny (unacceptable) 

And the vehicles that received a “superior” rating

  • Audi E-tron 
  • Jaguar XE
  • Mercedes B-Class
  • Range Rover Evoque

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