After making a substantial investment in a luxury car, to have it stolen using nothing more than a pair of radio transmitters is devastating. With incidents of prestige vehicle theft on the increase, could low-tech Faraday Bags be the answer to this high-tech problem? Welcome to the world of keyless car theft.
In the grand scheme of things, technology has played a big role in reducing the overall level of theft, with the introduction of immobilisers and advanced alarm systems helping curb the crime epidemic of the early 90s. And yet, car thefts today have hit a six-year high; the ABI has reported a record £271 million worth of theft claims to insurers in the first nine months of 2018 alone.
A headache for high-profile stars
Vehicle theft is a traumatic and stressful experience for the victim, whoever they are and whatever they do, not to mention being a time-consuming, complex and draining process as claims are made, police are informed and short-term provisions are put in place. In the sports and entertainment world in particular, it’s one of the biggest headaches faced by our brokers right now. High profile individuals are regularly and repeatedly targeted. Being in the public eye means it is easier to find out where they live, work and frequent. Also as more high-end vehicles become giant supercomputers, auto-thieves turned amateur hackers are finding it easier than ever to make off with these individuals’ prized vehicles.
Keyless technology is not ‘to blame’, as such. Rather, it has solved several prior problems while also opening up a new ‘threat vector’, to borrow from the language of cyber security. The same could be said for tech innovation within vehicles more generally. Road safety and awareness has improved, in-car problems are easier to identify with handy dashboard lights and warnings, and comfort levels increase year on year. But on the flip side, computers have for many decades now shown themselves to be vulnerable to manipulation by hackers.
In the longer-term, we expect to see prestige auto manufacturers develop bright and bold new tech-driven solutions to better protect keyless vehicles. However, in the short-term there’s no shortage of irony in the fact that the best protection for any concerned sports and entertainment star may be decidedly low-tech in nature.
The solution’s in the bag
The first option is to buy a bag. This isn’t retail therapy – we’re
talking about ‘faraday bags’ designed to block the signal that’s
permanently emanating from your vehicle’s fob. Pop the fob in the bag
and it’s impossible for any hackers lurking outside your property to
intercept the signal.
If, for whatever reason, you can’t get hold of a faraday bag, you could also consider sticking their fob in the fridge, which can also block out the signal being transmitted, though admittedly it creates a problem if you’re a person who regularly forgets where you’ve put things.
The second option is even more low-tech, and that’s to revert to using a physical steering lock – one of the most effective visible deterrents the auto world has ever invented. In this scenario, even the most unscrupulous hackers (who smash the windows of keyless cars and plug in discreet devices to write a new fob for the vehicle) will still encounter a sizeable barrier to making off with the car.
High-tech prestige autos are here to stay and rightly so, but they do
bring new risks and in some ways it’s helpful that the keyless thefts
story has hit the headlines now rather than in twelve months time when
the problem might have snowballed.