Beware of these high-tech car theft trends

Vehicle crime is a reality in South Africa. While you might think that having a car with the latest high-end security features protects you, this is not necessarily the case as car thieves become increasingly tech-savvy. In fact, the very sensors, computers, and data aggregation systems that were created to protect cars are now being used to steal cars. 

 Hi-tech methods used to steal cars

Keyless Entry Systems (KES)

There are several ways to steal a car with keyless entry. Below we highlight a couple:

  • The most common way to steal a keyless car is a method called relay hack. This technique involves picking up on the transmitted signal of your key and then diffusing them to the relay box being held by the second companion who is positioned closer to the car. It sends a message to the vehicle that the key is nearby, causing it to unlock.
  • Key jamming is another popular theft technique. In this procedure, the hackers intercept the signal between the key and the car. Like remote jamming, this prevents you from locking your car, giving thieves easy access to the vehicle. 

One way to protect your car from this method of theft is to store your key in a Faraday pouch. This pouch is made with conductive fibers that disrupt the radio signal. 

Cyber attacks

Most modern cars include an internet connection so the Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) can remotely manage the engine, transmission, powertrain, brakes, suspension, etc. Hackers are stealing cars by tracking the car's credentials and data via the internet. It allows them to bypass security, track the exact location of the vehicle, and create a false key signal (key cloning), allowing them to easily gain access to the car.

 How to protect yourself from vehicle theft

First and foremost, with South Africa’s criminal statistics, the best way to protect yourself financially is to invest in Fully Comprehensive Car Insurance. If this is not an option, investigate other insurance options. Although it is not required by South African law to have car insurance, driving without it is a risky endeavor. 

  • Use signal-blocking cases (like a Faraday pouch).
  • Go old school! A simple steering wheel lock will ensure your car stays put. 
  • Check the doors of your car manually so that you are sure that the doors have been locked to avoid the chances of key jamming theft.
  • When at home, store your car key as far away from your car as possible to minimise the possibility of amplifying the key fob signal.
  • Install an extra immobiliser or alarm.
  • Regularly update your car’s security software as most vehicle manufacturers are constantly introducing new tactics to stay one step ahead of thieves. For example, in December 2022, some Toyota and Lexus cars got a free security upgrade that could be installed at a reputable fitment centre for free. 
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