Thatcham Research has announced more robust standards for their NVSA programme for 2019, which will force car makers to make their cars more secure from electronic theft.
The headlines in the press are full of stories of cars, especially high-end premium cars, being stolen using electronic relay technology to silently steal a car without a key.
But now Thatcham Research has announced updates to the New Vehicle Security Assessment (NVSA) programme for 2019, against which all new cars are assessed to acquire an insurance group rating, in an effort to cut car thefts by thieves grabbing electronic gizmos online to steal cars.
The NVSA regulations have had a big impact on previous car theft levels by introducing stuff like alarms and double locking, but the 56 per cent rise in the last year in car thefts is down to the rise and rise of electronic thefts (and the fact that car thieves probably won’t be caught or properly prosecuted).
There are three main ways car thieves can use electronics to steal your car, with a relay attack grabbing the signal from the key in your house, boosting the signal and using that to steal your car; OBD hacks allowing thieves to gain access to your car’s brain through the OBD port once they’ve broken in, and Jammers which stop your car from locking even if you’ve blipped the fob.
But the headline grabber – and the one the mainstream press headline seemingly every day – is the relay attack, where thieves can grab the signal from your car key by standing at your front door, relaying and boosting that to an accomplice standing by your car and fool it in to thinking the key is close by, unlocking the car and allowing the thieves to start it and drive off.
Many of these electronic thefts are ending up in ‘Chop Shops’, which strip and sell the car as parts rather than being sold on, and with the electronic gizmos se easily available car makers have been unable to stop the plague.
But it seems, at least for relay attacks, that there is an answer, although it appears it’s not been implemented by many car makers yet, and it’s not just more sophisticated and secure algorithms for the key signal, but something simple in concept – a motion sensing key fob which switches off when not in use.
By effectively turning off the key fob when it’s not being used, and bringing it back to life when movement is sensed, car thieves won’t be able to grab a code and relay it when the key fob is sat on your hall table or bedside cabinet because the key won’t be ‘on’. Which sounds so simple (although we’re sure its application isn’t) we wonder why it’s taken so long.
But the new 2019 NVSA should make car makers work harder to address the electronic theft more robustly, and the motion sensing key fob seems a route every car maker should go. And they should, we’d suggest, offer owners of every vulnerable car a replacement with the new motion sensing technology once they’ve got it working effectively.