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SMMT calls on Government action as criminal gangs target keyless cars

Published 27 October 2014

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) is calling on the Government to regulate the sale of specialist security equipment after it emerged that organised criminal gangs are using the tools to steal keyless cars.

The number of car thefts in the UK has fallen from 318,000 in 2002 to 77,500 in 2013; however organised crime gangs are using increasingly high-tech ways to steal cars.

It’s claimed that thieves are using the internet to acquire specialist locksmith tools and gadgets to hack into on-board computers and override security systems. Some criminals have also mastered the art of intercepting the signals from the key fob to get into the car without damaging the doors or windows. Land Rover appears to be the latest victim, with a spike in thefts being reported in London.

Thatcham Research, the motor insurers’ automotive research centre, has said that almost 300 Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Sport vehicles were stolen in London from January to July 2014, while just 63 BMW X5 and 3 Series models were stolen during the same period.

"The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem”

"The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem,” said a Land Rover spokesperson.

“Our line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies. Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem.”

The issue of car hacking was first exposed several years ago; however, the problem appears to have returned with criminal gangs using locksmith equipment to steal cars. 

The specialist tools are widely available on the internet and contain sensitive data, which can be used by criminals to unlock a vehicle, switch off the alarm and re-program a new key. Manufacturers are legally obliged to allow open access to technical security information to enable the after-market to survive. Any attempt to prevent this access would result in thousands of independent technicians being put out of a job.  

The SMMT, is campaigning for the Government to limit the supply of security-critical technologies and devices. It would like to see only registered dealers, approved garages and independent operators to access vehicle security systems.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the SMMT, said: "We need better safeguards within the regulatory framework to make sure this equipment does not fall into unlawful hands and, if it does, that the law provides severe penalties to act as an effective deterrent."

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