Hi Tech Car Theft

A new scourge is due to his the streets, a new crime wave that will see thieves using a hand-held electronic device which exposes a glitch in our 'keyless' ignition systems. These are typically implemented in top-end vehicles of which over the years, the wealthy owners have found themselves victim to.

A traditional ignition is started with a key, but the 'keyless' plastic fob contains a computer chip and security code. When the fob is placed into a slot on the dashboard, a code is detected by the cars computer allowing you to start the engine at the press of a button. However in some models you do not have to insert the fob, simply having it in you handbag or pocket will do the trick. These cars are supposed to be more secure and safe though in practice they are anything but.

When you purchase a  car fitted with this type of technology you are issued with a fob programmed by the manufacturer with a unique 40-digit code which the car will detect, if it does not, then you simply can not start the car. But, the computer can also re-programme a blank fob with a new code, and this is where trouble begins.

You can buy a blank fob and and a hand-held box which plugs into the on board diagnostic port for just £20. The box tells the computer to re-programme the blank fob with a new code, it takes just seconds and the car is up and running again. Thieves still have to get into the car either by smashing a window or use a radio scrambling device which prevents the car from locking when the driver presses the remote control button.

The manufactures could fix this by tweaking the computers to make it harder to re-programme the fob without the owners consent, but this would make it more expensive to replace lost keys. It's advised by police and the AA to invest in steel crook locks (which have fallen from favour recently) but by fitting one this means the theft will take more time and may be the best deterrent from the risk of your car being stolen, a small price to pay.