Motorists should take greater care of keyless cars, experts warn

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Motorists should take additional precautions to protect against sophisticated thieves who can steal some cars without using keys, experts have warned.

Thefts involving keyless entry systems are to blame for a jump in reported vehicle crimes, according to Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at car safety and security firm Thatcham Research.

“The kit fools the car into thinking the key is nearer than it is,” explained Mr Billyeald, adding that such crimes were “the preserve of organised criminal gangs”.

The new technique involves amplifying the radio signal of a key fob inside a house and relaying it to a receiver near the car.

“Gangs are honing their techniques and realising there’s something to be had here,” Mr Billyeald told the Press Association.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show a significant increase in vehicle theft, up by 40% over the previous year.

Toyota spokesman Richard Seymour said: “It’s a continuous battle. People out there will always find a way around not just our security but the security of other manufacturers.”

He added that car companies like Toyota “are always looking to make our technology more secure”.

Thatcham Research advises car owners to make sure they “understand the digital functions” of their vehicles, and check to see if software updates and newer fobs with enhanced security are available.

The research centre also recommends storing keys as far as possible from entry points and using shielding devices to block the signal from the key itself.

Recent research from vehicle tracking specialists Tracker has found a large majority of vehicles could be vulnerable to similar attacks.

A 2017 survey of 350 vehicle types by Tracker found 91% of cars fitted with keyless entry systems could be accessed remotely using relay tools.

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