A SPATE of car thefts involving thieves bypassing a vehicle's keyless entry system has prompted security experts to offer extra guidance.
Following further CCTV footage capturing the theft of a car with apparent ease, Thatcham Research has announced it is working with police forces across the country to combat the criminals.
The ‘transmitter relay' attack seen in the footage exploits a vulnerability in a vehicle's keyless entry system, with criminals amplifying or capturing the signal from a keyless or ‘smart' fob.
Keyless fobs, which Thatcham says should not be confused with standard remote fobs, allow drivers to open and start their vehicle without pressing the fob or even having to remove it from their pocket.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research said: "Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals. Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance and follow our simple security steps.
"We are working closely with the police and vehicle manufacturers to address this vulnerability, continuing our approach that has driven vehicle crime down 80 per cent from its peak in 1992."
Thatcham Research has issued 10 steps to help drivers safeguard their cars.
1. Think about who you leave your vehicle keys with. Treat them as you do your house keys - do you know the person you are leaving your keys with? Do you trust them?
2. Check who you are leaving your vehicle keys with. Where possible, check that a company you entrust your keys to is a member of an accredited code of practice or other professional standard such as Motor Codes, the British Parking Association's Park Mark scheme, or the Car Wash Advisory Service's WashMark initiative.
3. Think about where you park your vehicle - is it in a safe place? Well-lit and well-populated areas or car parks with security features such as CCTV, manned barriers or gated entry will give you greater peace of mind.
4. Check that your vehicle is locked before leaving it. Listen for the locking noise, watch for the lights to flash or mirrors to fold, or simply pull the door handle.
5. Think about where you leave your spare key. Don't leave it in your vehicle, and be mindful of how many spares you have and where they are kept.
6. Check that you haven't left valuables on display in your vehicle. We all know that this can attract opportunist thieves.
7. Check that the vehicle's windows are closed, even if you are only leaving it for a few minutes. Open windows make it all the easier for thieves to gain access.
8. Think about where you keep your keys at home. Keep them well away from the door or windows and out of sight.
9. Check that your alarm or immobiliser is enabled when you leave your car. A simple check could save considerable expense and inconvenience later.
10. Check whether your vehicle has an alarm or immobiliser. If it doesn't, think about buying an aftermarket alarm, steering wheel lock or other locking device. These are proven to deter thieves.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that 91,000 vehicles were stolen in the UK in 2016, up from 70,000 in 2013. However, this data relates to all vehicles, including mopeds, motorbikes and vans. Car crime peaked in 1992, a year which saw 620,000 thefts.
Figures revealing the exact number of cars which have been compromised using the transmitter relay attack are not available, due to the way vehicle thefts are recorded.