Preventing High-Tech Auto Thefts

How to Prevent High-Tech Car Thefts

Advanced technology has made it difficult for criminals to steal a vehicle, but thieves are finding ways to get around it.​ According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), auto theft is increasing. Recent data showed overall losses from auto theft rose 70 percent between 2017 and 2021, a significant increase compared to just 7 percent between 2013 and 2017.

New types of high-technology thefts have emerged due to YouTube and TikTok videos offering instructions on hijacking certain vehicles. Below are three main ways vehicles are being broken into or stolen and how to prevent it from happening to your car.

Hacking Key Fobs

While key fobs are convenient, they are also vulnerable for criminals to take advantage of. An example is a two-person crime known as the “Relay Attack.” The first thief walks up to the front door of a house with an antenna and a device that receives and transmits a radio-frequency identification (RFID) signal from the key fob. Meanwhile, when the signal is received, the second thief waits by the vehicle with another device to open the car door.

Some automakers are now using software to signal the key fob to stop transmitting when it is stationary. However, there are several precautionary steps you can take to prevent it. First, keep the fob as far away from the door as possible, like in the kitchen or your bedroom. Second, use a Faraday pouch, an RFID-blocking bag, to hold your key fob. The pouch blocks electromagnetic field radiation and prevents thieves from tapping into the signal. And finally, park your vehicle in the garage instead of the driveway.​

Code Stealing

You’ve probably done this many times. You park your car at the mall, and as you walk away, you hit the key fob to lock your vehicle. That’s when criminals can intercept the radio frequency from your key fob and copy the code. The devices thieves used to conduct the crime are found online for about $300, with new key fobs that can be reprogrammed. Thieves typically sit and wait until a specific vehicle enters the parking lot and follow it to the spot. To protect yourself, be aware of your surroundings and lock your car before you walk away.​

Reprogramming theft 

During the lockdown and quarantines of the pandemic, auto thieves took their crimes significantly online. In 2021, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) busted an organized crime that stole 45 cars in six months. ​

According to police, the criminals targeted specific models and then went onto illegal websites to get critical vehicle codes. They then programmed blank vital fobs to enter the vehicles without triggering the car alarm. Once inside the vehicle, they reprogrammed its system to evade other security systems and drove away.

Police are continuously trying to shut down these illegal websites. However, the only way for you to deter the thieves is to use a steering wheel lock device or not leave your car in a public parking spot for days.

Tracking Your Car

While aftermarket tracking systems won’t prevent theft, they can help you find and locate it. It is as simple as plugging essential GPS devices into your car’s computer port. Other integrated systems, like LoJack, need to be installed professionally. Some newer car models also provide tracking through subscription-based services that cost about $30 a month.

The YouTube video below explains how high-tech thieves can steal your car in minutes.

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