Car gone in less than a minute, no thanks to technology

PETALING JAYA: Thieves are now able to steal, within a minute, cars that have push-start mechanism or keyless technology.

These thefts can even be carried out in under 30 seconds, said Vehicle Theft Reduction Council of Malaysia (VTREC) coordinator Mas Tina Abdul Hamid, who described the process as “relatively easy”. She said the thieves will hack the key fob, the small handheld remote control device that controls a remote keyless entry system.

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“While immobilisers and car security alarms have made life much harder for thieves over the years, some push-to-start systems in modern cars can be taken advantage of. Thieves can steal a car in under 30 seconds,” she said in an interview.

The mission of VTREC, which began in 2007, is to work towards reducing car thefts.

Among its stakeholders are the police, Road Transport Department, Malaysian Automotive Association, Puspakom and General Insurance Association of Malaysia.

In February, VTREC launched a nationwide public vehicle theft awareness campaign with the tagline “United Against Vehicle Theft”.

As the keyless system allows drivers to get into their cars, start the engine and drive off without having to insert the physical key into the ignition, Mas Tina said car thieves would employ tactics such as a “relay attack”.

“This works through short-range radio waves, with the key fob in the owner’s pocket or bag transmitting signals to the relay amplifier and then relay transmitter.

“Thieves can also walk around the house with the amplifier to detect the signal emitted by the key fob,” she said.

Among the preventive measures, she said, includes keeping the key fob away from the car, windows or doors.

ALSO READ: Simple anti-theft tips for cars

“This would make it harder for thieves to detect the car’s signal,” Mas Tina said.

She also advised those using vehicles with a push-to-start mechanism to keep their keys in a Faraday pouch to block radio waves.

The pouch is an enclosed, sealed unit which prevents signals from being sent and received.

“Use conventional mechanical locks such as steering, pedal and gear locks, among others, as a visual deterrent while also adding significant time to thieves stealing a car,” she said.

Mas Tina said installing a tracking device or car immobilisers was also advised.

“Have them professionally fitted as it makes efforts to immobilise or disable them harder while also increasing the chances of the car being recovered.”

Mas Tina advised car owners to purchase vehicle theft insurance.

“This is to cover your vehicle against theft,” she said, adding that manufacturers too had to beef up their security systems.

A news report from AP said owners of some car models can deactivate the wireless setting so that the person could not open the door remotely.

It also said that automakers have started adding motion sensors to key fobs.

The report also suggested that buyers of used cars should get the keys reprogrammed “in case the previous owner kept one of the fobs”.

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