UK Police Successfully Recover Wireless Relay Device Used to Steal Cars

UK Police Successfully Recover Wireless Relay Device Used to Steal Cars

Author: Michael Cheng   

In the UK, the West Midlands Police have uncovered a sophisticated car theft attempt on modern vehicles using cutting edge relay devices. The method applied in the criminal acts does not require a physical key to be inserted in the car for access.

According to local police force, this is the first relay device recovered by law enforcement that was used for car theft purposes. Officials were able to catch the criminals, after footage from a nearby CCTV camera recorded the individuals hacking into a Mercedes-Benz vehicle at night and driving off with the car without damage.

Relay Attacks on Modern Cars

The relay attack on the car was conducted by three individuals, based on CCTV footage of the incident. To start, a car pulls up at the driveway of the home, located inside a residential neighborhood. Two individuals step out of the car, with one holding a relay box. The device is waved around the garage and in front of the house in order to retrieve the key fob's signal.

After acquiring the signal, it is pushed to another box and to the target vehicle. The signal is then accepted by the car, resulting in a fully unlocked unit. Upon gaining entry into the vehicle, the individuals quickly drove away from the crime scene.

"This is certainly the first relay device recovered in the Midlands and I'm not aware of any others recovered nationally," said the West Midlands Police.

"The recovery of this equipment should prevent further thefts of cars taking place and goes to show that we are on top of car thieves and will stay one step ahead of them as they adapt to new technology."

A similar relay device was recovered by the West Midlands Police after a car chase with one of the suspects. The seizure led to the arrest of Martynas Auga, who turned himself in a few days after abandoning the vehicle used in the car chase.

Best Car Security Practices

Car theft via hacking can be best avoided through the observation of basic network security practices. First, ensure the vehicle is connected to a secure network by applying a strong password. Always keep the car's firmware updated. Most infotainment systems have an auto-update feature, which is the recommended approach in handling software updates.

Private car owners can also choose to install a steering wheel lock on the unit, when parking in an area for long periods of time. This option doesn't actually prevent theft, but can be useful for delaying access to the steering wheel.

"It is always worth speaking to your main dealer, to ensure that your car has had all the latest software updates and talk through security concerns with them," highlighted Mark Silvester, from the West Midlands Police crime reduction team.

Lastly, avoid parking your car outside at night (park it in the garage, if you have access to one). If you don't have access to a secure garage, install a hidden GPS tracker in your car for peace of mind. This solution is ideal for public parking lots or overnight parking locations.

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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