Rise in digital car theft techniques signals revamp of security by manufacturers
Security assessments for all new cars are being tightened
to bring in fresh measures to address the challenges presented by digital theft
techniques, Thatcham Research has announced.
The motor insurers’ automotive research centre is
updating the New Vehicle Security Assessment (NVSA) programme, centred on
securing cars against the growing threat presented by digital compromise.
The NVSA is the security standard against which all new
cars are assessed as part of the insurance Group Rating and will be updated in
2019 giving carmakers the opportunity to bring in fresh measures.
The new criteria will be designed to shut down the keyless
entry vulnerability, while anticipating other potential methods of digital and
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer, Thatcham
Research, said: “Car crime is on the increase, with intelligence suggesting
that electronic compromise is a factor in as many as one in four vehicle
“In the 1990s, the NVSA effectively brought an end to a
car crime epidemic by introducing alarms and double-locking door functions,
amongst other measures. Initiated in 1992, a year which saw 620,000 car thefts,
this approach was instrumental in driving theft levels down by 80% up to 2016.
“In the same way, collaborative and concerted action from
Thatcham Research, carmakers, police and insurers will close the digital
vulnerabilities exploited by today’s criminal gangs.”
Thatcham Research has identified vulnerabilities in
on-board electronic systems and criteria covering those areas will be included
in the new standards.
In addition, police authorities have drawn attention to
the increase in ‘chop shops’ - illicit garages where cars are dismantled to be sold
on the spare parts market - and therefore criteria related to parts
identification will also be carefully reviewed.
Mr Billyeald continued: “CCTV footage of criminal gangs
exploiting a vulnerability in keyless entry systems has been highly visible in
recent months. However, we estimate that only 1% of cars on the road have this
technology. Carmakers are already introducing keys with motion sensors which
deactivate when stored, and new secure signal transmission technologies. In the
short term, while these counter-measures come into the market, concerned
drivers should contact their dealer to discuss the digital functionality of
“The online availability of tools which criminals can
plug into vehicles to programme a false key is also a concern. We support
recent calls from the police for closer regulation of the sale of these
devices, which have no use outside of a licensed bodyshop or garage.”