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LoJack reveals the high-tech tricks thieves use to steal connected cars

Connected cars, especially vehicles with keyless ignition systems and in-vehicle networks, can be easy prey for high-tech car thieves. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, more cars were stolen in the first half of 2015 than during the same period in 2014, as noted in LoJack’s Auto Theft Blog.

Patrick Clancy, LoJack’s vice president of law enforcement, told Digital Trends that high-tech thieves share techniques and access to technology that assists them in stealing our ever-more-connected vehicles. And they’re not just after your car — they also want anything else easy to sell that’s stored inside. Clancy spoke of groups of thieves carrying gym bags working together in parking lots making a sweep of all the unlocked vehicles taking any valuables they find. The combination of high-tech and no-tech methods used by today’s thieves means vigilance and protection are more important than ever before.

Related: Car thieves can hack car security systems quickly with laptops

LoJack created an infographic about connected car theft with methods used by criminals, as well as tips you can use to protect your property.

Clancy said that once high-tech car crooks access an in-car network, there’s a very real threat that they could disable the vehicle and hold it for ransom. Various car systems such as entertainment, communications, and ECUs (electronic control units) are supposed to be kept separate, but with the convenience of remote unlocking and starting with smartphones, thieves scanning a neighborhood could pick up the connection and take over.

Scanner boxes allow thieves to capture access codes and frequencies used by wireless key fobs and then enter and drive off with your car. Owners of luxury and exotic cars in particular need to be cautious because organized crime rings systematically search for high-value vehicles either for chop shops or to pack in containers and ship overseas. The film Gone in 60 Seconds is an accurate portrayal of how those rings work, Clancy said.

Clancy also stressed the importance of locking cars, no matter where they’re parked. He said that, whether thieves today break into cars by electronic means or just by opening an unlocked door, they look for and steal any information about your identity along with valuables. They can sell your personal info to identity theft rings or just try to use it themselves. He warned that keeping keys for other vehicles in your car as a convenience is a particularly bad practice that can lead to your losing more than one car.

Among the additional tips to protect your cars, LoJack recommends staying informed of vehicle recalls, keeping manufacturer software updated, installing a tracking device that can be accessed by law enforcement, and, above all, using common sense.