Keyless car crime is an ongoing problem with new cars in Europe, and it's on the rise.
According to research conducted by the British automotive services company RAC using numbers supplied directly by police forces, car thefts in England and Wales have increased from 65,783 in 2013 to 85,688 in 2017.
Thieves can buy a device over the Internet that allows them to intercept the signal between the key fob and car and generate an entry code that enables them to get inside the car and drive off – that is, if the security systems on the car aren't up to date with the latest technology to prevent exactly this kind of attack.
The key fobs for the car are fitted with a motion sensor which detects whether or not they have moved for 40 seconds – if they haven't, the key fobs are put into a "'sleep mode," meaning the fob won't interact with the sort of equipment criminals use to gain access to keyless-equipped cars when the keys are nearby.
"The online availability of devices which have no place in public hands has long been a problem for Ford, our industry and crime fighters," said Ford security specialist Simon Hurr. "We are pleased to respond with a simple but effective solution – swiftly implemented to help protect owners of our top-selling cars."
You don't even need to go out and buy a brand new Fiesta or Focus to benefit from this new technology either. If you already own the latest generation of either model, you can get replacement secure fobs for just £65 / $85 (for the Fiesta), £72 /$94 (for the Focus), plus labor costs.
"This is great news for car owners and the wider automotive industry," said Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research. "There is a known weakness in keyless entry systems, and we are pleased that Ford has come up with a simple and effective response on these big-selling models. We hope that other car makers will respond in a similar fashion."
Gallery: Ford introduces theft-proof keyless fobs
ADDED PROTECTION FOR FORD OWNERS IN FIGHT AGAINST KEYLESS CAR THEFTS
- Fiesta and Focus are first Ford models to pioneer new keyless entry fobs with sleep mode to protect against being hacked
- Ford after-market offer launched to existing new Fiesta and Focus drivers to upgrade fobs
- Successful Trade Vehicle Locks range for Ford car and van owners extended
BRENTWOOD, Essex, 10 April 2019 – The UK’s two top-selling cars in Fiesta and Focus are benefitting from new Ford security technology which disables their keyless entry fobs when not in use to block illegal hacking.
Keyless entry fobs of all makes of cars have been targeted by thieves with “relay box” equipment, used to extend the signal from fobs in homes to unlock and start vehicles parked outside.
Now, a new motion sensor inside the Ford fob detects when it has been stationary for longer than 40 seconds and triggers a sleep mode, which will not respond to attempts to hack its signal via a “relay box” or through the misuse of other specialist equipment.
Moving the keyless fob by picking it up inside the home and taking it to the car will restore full functionality by the time Fiesta and Focus drivers approach their cars. Ford fobs are designed to operate only within a two-metre radius of the cars they are bonded to.
Britain’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta, plus the Fiesta Van version, are already being delivered with the new fobs as standard at no extra cost, followed by Ford Focus production from next month.
Simon Hurr, Ford security specialist, said: “The online availability of devices which have no place in public hands has long been a problem for Ford, our industry and crime fighters. We are pleased to respond with a simple but effective solution – swiftly implemented to help protect owners of our top-selling cars.”
Latest Ford Fiesta and Focus models can have security upgraded with replacement fobs, priced from £65 (Fiesta), £72 (Focus) plus 0.9 hours labour to programme and test. This is available to owners of the current Fiesta, which has been on sale for two years, and of the Focus introduced last year. Over the next two years Ford will be rolling out the same motion-sensor technology across its other cars’ key fobs.
Additionally, Ford’s Trade Vehicle Locks (TVL) security range has been increased to 125 available locks, guards and related accessories for its car and van customers. Key TVL products for cars include wallets that block access to fobs inside them, protectors covering OBD ports (the diagnostic socket within the vehicle used by dealer technicians to access the vehicle’s electronics) and vehicle marking kits. The van range includes a range of security accessories to help protect both theft from and of the vehicle, such as additional locks for front doors, side doors and rear doors, and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and catalytic converter locks.
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, said: “This is great news for car owners and the wider automotive industry. There is a known weakness in keyless entry systems, and we are pleased that Ford has come up with a simple and effective response on these big-selling models. We hope that other car makers will respond in a similar fashion.”
Ford balances fitting vehicles with the equipment required to keep its cars and vans secure, and which match customer priorities and price expectations. For example, every new Fiesta has had an immobiliser since 1994 and all but entry-level models have included a standard Thatcham category one alarm since mid-2017. This means that once set, the in-built alarm system sounds if the car is attacked with force, including entry by an unauthorised person, movement within the cabin, wheel removal and so on.
If criminals reach the OBD port, any attempt to plug into the car’s diagnostics automatically initiates a 10-minute software lockdown, while the alarm continues to sound. Repeated attempts to access the system restarts the 10-minute wait period, eliminating the possibility of rapid illegitimate programming of keys for the car via the OBD.
On the market-leading Transit – Britain’s favourite van for over 50 years – cabin and load space are now secured separately, meaning that breaking into the front of a Transit van dos not provide access to the load area behind which remains locked and valuable cargo protected.
Top Ford security tips
- Check for visual cues to confirm the car is double locked (after a double click of the lock button on your remote) as you walk away. The indicators flash as the alarm is set and in some cases wing mirrors fold in as permanent confirmation that the car is secure
- Do not store keyless entry fobs just inside your front door within close range of a car parked outside. Fobs without new sleep mode should be stored further away, in a suitable metal box or shielded pouch available as part of TVL range – and TASSA (Tracking & Aftermarket Security System Association) approved
- A Ford dealer checks every time a car is serviced for any security software upgrades or other recommended modifications. It is important to visit a dealer, especially with an older car, to receive outstanding updates