DOZENS of car models could be at risk of being broken into by thieves hacking keyless cars, The Sun Online can reveal.
Vehicles from 30 manufacturers, ranging from BMW to Peugeot, were unlocked and started using a simple hack in German tests.
Tests by the ADAC – the German AA – tricked the keyless sensor technology into thinking that the vehicle’s owner is nearby with the fob.
BMW 740, Ford Focus RS, Toyota’s Prius and VW Golf 7 GTD are among the car’s affected.
Paige Foster, 23, was shocked to discover her £35,000 car had vanished from outside her front door in Grays, Essex, last week.
The Mercedes C220 is one of the cars that German researchers were able to hack.
The only vehicle that the researchers failed to unlock was BMW’s i3.
But they were able to start the engine.
The Subaru Levorg and the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, Baleno and Vitara models were unlocked during the tests in Germany.
However, Suzuki’s UK spec vehicles have an extra electronic immobiliser controller, while Subaru cars in this country are fitted with standard alarms that guard against this high-tech hack.
ADAC researchers say the the device used for the tests costs just £80.
A spokesman for the biggest motoring club in Europe said “The radio connection between keys and car can easily be extended over 100 metres, regardless of whether the original key is, for example, at home or in the pocket of the owner.”
They built two radio devices – an amplifier that must be placed near the victim’s keys, and a receiver that needs to be left near the car.
The radio near the car acts as the key and causes the car to unlock.
The device can work up to 90 metres away.
An ADAC spokesman told The Sun Online: “We are revealing this IT problem at more and more brands across different manufacturers.
“Thefts have been using these loopholes presumably for years, without car manufacturers providing an effective solution – which shows that the automotive industry still has very much to catch up to other sectors of the economy with regards to IT security.
“All the more since keyless systems are also available for small and medium-sized cars and offered partly as standard configuration, manufacturers are called upon to effectively protect vehicle electronics.”
Drivers of cars that use keyless technology have resorted to storing it in a freezer or a “Faraday cage” to block the electronic signals.
A spokesman for the Volkswagen group, which includes VW, Seat and Audi, said: “The Volkswagen Group takes the illegal use of radio path lengthening systems very seriously.
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“We are continually working on improving safety systems in order to hinder or prevent such manipulation, and are in regular contact with the authorities on this matter.
“Please understand that we are unable to comment on the technical details of theft protection measures, because such information could be used by third parties to the detriment of our customers.”
A Hyundai spokesman said: “Hyundai Motor’s keyless system complies with all current security standards and regulations.
“The Company is constantly developing it systems further to close any security gaps.”
A Vauxhall spokesman said: “Vauxhall takes the safety and security of its customers very seriously. “While researchers have shown complicated and quite unrealistic vehicle theft attempts such as the relay attack under very controlled conditions, we are not aware of any real world cases of such attacks on Vauxhall vehicles.
“Vauxhall has multiple existing protections in place and continues to add security protections as new threats are identified.”
A Mazda spokesman said: “Mazda is aware of the problem of car theft by keyless-entry hacks and is continually studying countermeasures.
“Although we cannot disclose any specifics at the present point in time, Mazda is committed to protecting the safety and assets of our customers and will continue developing technologies to combat the constantly evolving problem of car theft.”
A BMW spokesman said: “The theft protection measures taken by car makers are highly effective.
“The automotive industry is constantly updating these measures in order to also render new forms of attacks on vehicles ineffective.
“To this end, the industry is working closely with police authorities.”
A Mercedes-Benz spokesman said after the Essex car theft: “All Mercedes-Benz vehicles have extensive security and anti-theft protection systems.
“Data security, data protection and anti-theft protection are important elements in our research and development activities.
“The development of protection and safety mechanisms is continued over the entire life cycle of a vehicle.
“When enhancing our protective mechanisms we take into account the latest knowledge about criminal methods and about attacks on security systems.
“We also offer our customers the option of deactivating the radio signal with two clicks of the key in order to prevent abuse.”
Volvo, Honda, Peugeot, Kia, Citroen and Nissan declined to comment.
The Sun Online has contacted the other manufacturers affected.
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