The Increase in the Theft of Keyless Motor Vehicles

A car start and stop engine button

This post was first published on 05/06/2019.

Author: Stephen Mason, Barrister and Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London.

There has been an increase in the number of motor vehicles stolen recently, as reported by the BBC on 28 March 2019: ‘Car theft rise prompts keyless warning’.

Thatcham Research Security Rating indicates that thefts have increased by 51 per cent between 2013 and 2017; see also Five of the 11 New Cars Launched in 2019 Rated Poor for Security (Thatcham Research is a not for profit organization funded by the insurance sector).

In an article published in 2012, I predicted there would be an increase in thefts: Stephen Mason, ‘Vehicle remote keyless entry systems and engine immobilisers: do not believe the insurer that they are perfect’, Computer Law and Security Review, Volume 28, Issue 2 (April 2012), 195 – 200.

In this article, I outlined the various methods by which cars could be stolen. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) have highlighted two of the most popular, (i) on board diagnostic ports, and (ii) the relay attack, for which see: ‘“Car thieves have been having a field day”. ABI responds to new keyless access security rating’, 21 March 2019.

In 2012 I warned that ‘on board diagnostic ports’ (see the ABI web site for an explanation) would cause an increase in thefts of motor vehicles. Suffice to say I was correct.

The practical problem is to provide for security of technology, which is near impossible. A second issue for lawyers is to understand the technology, which the open source practitioner text aims to achieve: Electronic Evidence (4th edition, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for the SAS Humanities Digital Library, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2017).

More electronic evidence in another blog post.

Stephen Mason

Stephen Mason is a Barrister and former Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London.

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