Car Theft Spikes For Specific Vehicles Means Thieves Have New Tool

For $1,600, car thieves are buying a new device, disguised as a cell phone or Bluetooth phone speaker. It easily hacks into cars in seconds. This is the latest tool for car theft continues to thwart automakers’ best efforts at security. With these devices, car thieves are able to gain easy access to a car’s network bus. It gives commands and is gone in 90 seconds. 

How do thieves use these devices for car theft?

Car theft
Abandoned stolen car | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty

Hacked locks and immobilizers make for easy pickings. Once a successful hack of a particular type of car is successful, the thieves focus on that type of car. As a result, police see spikes of that make and model car. 

“Typically, each vehicle brand will have a different flavor network on the car,” security expert Ken Munro told the Times. “Not massively different, but a little, with different components on the cars that talk in slightly different ways. “So each attack is customized to the particular vehicle. What we are seeing is that someone finds a weakness in x brand and x vehicle, recognised it, ‘productized’ it, and then sold it. Then all of a sudden you see a spike in thefts of a particular type of vehicle.”

Do car thieves still need a key?

stolen car
Stripped, abandoned stolen car | Jerry Cleveland/The Denver Post via Getty

Where relay devices were the standard for car theft, now thieves no longer need a key or key signal. Now car theft is all done electronically. And because the devices look like something else, if the police pull thieves over, it is undetectable, helping them avoid suspiscion.

In some cases, accessing the car’s electronic system requires thieves to remove the front bumper cover. Some car owners have reported finding their bumper covers partially or completely removed, a sure indication that the car is a target. If that has happened to you, now you know why.

“Both car parts and vehicles themselves are in extremely high demand, and it’s likely these are being shipped abroad or sold to make a profit,” says Alex Borgnis, the underwriting director for General Insurance of London. “I’d encourage drivers to think about steps they can take to mitigate the risks. Simply using a steering wheel lock or wheel clamp can help deter thieves.”

What you can do to make your car less desirable to thieves

stolen car
A damaged and stripped stolen car | Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty

Which Cars Get Stolen the Most and Why Is It Always Dodge?

Especially certain Lexus models have seen increases in car theft both in the U.S. and the UK. A spokesman for Toyota and Lexus told the Times, “We have been monitoring keyless means of theft for some time now, alongside our industry colleagues. Unfortunately, while in general vehicle-related crime has subsided in recent years, criminals haven’t stopped committing crimes.”

Car tracking systems like LoJack, and even the much cheaper Apple Air Tags, can help thwart your car being stolen. But steering wheel locks can also provide a cheap deterrent for thieves, who typically go for the easiest and quickest cars to steal. The proof of that is some police departments provide them free of charge for Hyundai and Kia owners, experiencing a rash of thefts across the country. Now, some insurance companies refuse to insure those two brands.