Criminals use high-tech tactics to steal cars – CBS News

Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2017

While the number of cars stolen in the U.S. has been slashed in half over the past 20 years, authorities are now seeing more break-ins using some sneaky high-tech tactics.  

Two years ago, Michael Shin of Los Angeles captured of footage of a man opening his car holding just a backpack. Shin — who always locks his car — said the man had no break-in tools in hand. 

“It’s just a little unnerving that they could so easily just walk into my car and pretty much without any recourse, without anybody really noticing,” Shin told CBS News.

While this kind of break-in has puzzled authorities in the past, insurance investigators now believe that criminals are remotely taking advantage of key fobs — those little authentication devices you use to access newer “keyless” models — to unlock and start cars with just the push of a button.

“You can’t stop this kind of theft right now,” Roger Morris of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) told CBS News.

Morris explained that these high-tech thieves use two devices to break into cars. First, one person standing nearby uses a device that intercepts the fob’s specific code when the owner uses it; that code is then immediately sent to a second thief with a box that mimics the car’s fob. Now, the car can be unlocked, opened, and started without the owner’s knowledge. 

Morris said that the NICB tested 35 vehicles using this kind of system. They were able to open, start, and drive off with 18 test cars.

While the NICB conducted its break-ins using devices provided by a company that works with law enforcements for these security tests, Morris said it’s believed that professional criminals have determined how to make their own versions.

Car owners need to be vigilant now that criminals have figured out how to hack into and defeat vehicle security systems. It’s a serious reminder of the potential risks of today’s cars being basically “a computer on wheels,” Morris said.

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