Car Thieves Using Device to Automatically Open and Start Push-Button Ignition Cars

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has gotten its hands on a device, called a Relay Attack, that can allow a car thief to open and start a vehicle that uses a keyless entry system (think push-button to start).   It appears to be more sophisticated and ideally suited to a car thief’s purposes than even the RKE jammers we have posted about before.  These Relay Attack devices have been thought to exist and have been used by car thieves for at least the last several years, but it’s apparently the first time someone legitimate has been able to get their hands on one to confirm their capabilities.  NICB purchased one from a European vendor it did not specifically identify by name.  The device was apparently developed by engineers as a way to test the anti-theft capabilities of push-button cars, but increasing numbers of car thieves are suspected of having gotten their hands on it.

In a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two-week period, 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested. We partnered with NICB member company CarMax, because they are the nation’s largest used car retailer and have nearly every make and model in their inventory. Tests were also done at a new car dealership, an independent used car dealer, at an auto auction and on NICB employee vehicles and ones owned by private individuals.

The vehicles were tested to see if the device could:

  • open the door
  • start the vehicle
  • drive it away
  • turn off and restart the engine without the original fob present

The NICB was able to open 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.

Unscientific or not, these results are depressing.  Hit the jump for an honestly fascinating video by NICB summarizing their findings on the device.

And just what is the National Insurance Crime Bureau?

It is a North American non-profit organization created by the insurance industry to address insurance-related crime and works closely with law enforcement agencies. Much of NICB’s focus is on motor vehicle theft, and it is headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois.

National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Reveals Mystery Device 
That Opens and Starts Vehicles [via Source]