Low-tech solutions to high-tech Prestige theft problems
After making a substantial investment in a luxury automobile, it must come as quite a blow to learn that your vehicle has been pinched from outside your home within a matter of seconds using nothing more than a pair of radio transmitters. Welcome to the world of keyless car theft, which has hit the national news in a big way recently.
In the grand scheme of things, technology has played a big role in reducing the overall level of theft, with the introduction of immobilisers and advanced alarm systems helping curb the crime epidemic of the early 90s. And yet, car thefts today have hit a six-year high; the ABI is reporting a record £271 million worth of theft claims to insurers in the first nine months of 2018 alone.
Vehicle theft is a traumatic and stressful experience for the victim, whoever they are and whatever they do, not to mention being a time-consuming, complex and draining process as claims are made, police are informed, short-term provisions are made, and more besides. In the sports and entertainment world in particular, it’s one of the biggest headaches faced by insurers now. High profile individuals are regularly targeted – its easier to find out where they live, work, frequent etc – and, as more high-end vehicles become giant supercomputers, auto thieves turned amateur hackers are finding easier than ever to make off with these individuals’ prized vehicles.
Keyless technology is not ‘to blame’, as such. Rather, it has solved several prior problems while also opening up a new ‘threat vector’, to borrow from the language of cyber security. The same could be said for tech innovation within vehicles more generally. Road safety and awareness has improved, in-car comfort has experienced, problems are easier to identify and so many further incremental improvements, but on the flip side, computers have for many decades now shown themselves to be vulnerable to manipulation by hackers.
In the longer-term, doubtless we’ll see prestige auto manufacturers develop bright and bold new tech-driven solutions to better protect keyless vehicles. However, in the short-term there’s no shortage of irony in the fact that the best protection for any concerned sports and entertainment star may be decidedly low-tech in nature.
The first option is to buy a bag. This isn’t retail therapy – we’re talking about ‘faraday bags’ designed to block the signal that’s permanently emanating from your vehicles’s fob. Pop the fob in the bag and its impossible for any hackers lurking outside your property to intercept the signal.
If, for whatever reason, your clients can’t get hold of a faraday bag, they could also consider sticking their fob in the fridge, which can also block out the signal being transmitted, though admittedly it creates a problem if you’re a person who regularly forgets where you’ve put things.
The second option is even more low-tech, and that’s to revert to using a physical steering lock – one of the most effective visible deterrents the auto world has ever invented. In this scenario, even the most unscrupulous hackers (who smash the windows of keyless cars and plug in discreet devices to write a new fob for the vehicle) will still encounter a sizeable barrier to making off with the car.
High-tech prestige autos are here to stay, and rightly so, but they do bring new risks and in some ways it’s helpful that the keyless thefts story has hit the headlines now rather than in twelve months time when the problem might have grown still greater. So as we approach Christmas, keyless car owners should all make sure their list to Santa includes either a faraday bag, a steering log, or possibly a new fridge.
We would like to take this chance to advise all our clients of this low-tech solution.