Car thieves are getting cleverer despite automakers continuing to find ways to prevent cars from being stolen. Back in the old days, car thieves had it rather easy with primitive antitheft systems and metal keys.
These days, pretty much every car features RFID-equipped smart keys or fobs, programmed with unique IDs and codes that allow them to enable the vehicle they belong to. While it hasn’t necessarily brought car theft to a grinding halt, it still makes it one step harder for perpetrators — that is, if they’re not up to date with their technology. RFID keys might be an improvement over the traditional metal key, but they still have their weak points, as observed with a recent car theft caught on camera in the United Kingdom.
Like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, CNN sourced a security video showing a bunch of thieves in the U.K. stealing a current-generation Mercedes-Benz W205 C-Class sedan in under a minute — a car that you’d think is hard to boost. “How?” you might ask.
Well, as the video reveals, the thieves utilized a set of special RFID tools, typically used to copy remote key signatures to other fobs, or other system maintenance involving a vehicle’s antitheft system. Called a relay box, the system essentially hunts out a key fob’s RFID signal, replicates it or sends it to another satellite relay box, where it can also transmit the stored signal. With the help of these tools, the thieves made off with this poor chap’s C-Class sedan and were gone in less than 60 seconds.
According to the CNN video bit, the C-Class has yet to be recovered and the local constabulary released this security footage in hopes of a successful recovery. The event took place in Elmdon area of Solihull in England’s West Midlands.
There are ways to prevent this from happening, as suggested by the West Midlands Police crime reduction division when this video was released. Speculation suggests the thieves were able to get within reach of the car’s actual key, implying the key was near the vehicle’s location, presumably at the front of the house.
One way would be to simply store the key in a location far away from the vehicle itself, or alternatively, employ the use of an approved, physical steering-lock system, just like in the 1990s. Another way would be to store the car in an RFID-protective bag.
It might give off the impression that you’re into tinfoil hats, but with the U.K. having the highest car-theft rates per capita in Europe, the Brits have every good reason to be extra careful.