High-tech, high-risk? Car theft rises as thieves circumvent modern security

“Mo money mo problems”, lamented Biggie Smalls in 1997, unaware of the rather mundane application the predicament would have some 20 years on in Britain’s automotive industry. But it turns out he was really rather prescient; UK motorists have become increasingly at risk of car theft, as unconventional security systems on high-tech vehicles are vulnerable to new avenues of compromisation.

High-tech, high-risk? Car theft rises as thieves circumvent modern security

Police data has revealed a 30% increase in car theft over the past three years, a trend they attribute in part to canny thieves’ capacity to bypass modern security systems in cars. Indeed, police footage emerged in November showing how thieves were able to steal cars without the need for keys, a feat which becomes increasingly problematic as the demand for keyless-type vehicles continues its onward march.

Over the past few years, cars have not been omitted from the digital revolution, with many manufacturers eschewing traditional metal keys for a push button fob. Ostensibly a more convenient means of security, the new technology opens up different types of criminality. Speaking to Sky News, Steve Launchbury of Thatcham Research explains, “When you have keyless-type vehicles where you physically just press a button and walk away, you’ve got the risk now of the signal being captured”.

The problem, although of the First World variety, isn’t negligible; reports of car theft to 40 police forces in England and Wales rose from 65,783 in 2013 to 85,688 in 2016. The bulk of these were situated in the capital, with 26,496 cars reported stolen to the Metropolitan Police.

How can we bolster defences against the onslaught of vehicular theft? In an age of fingerprint sensors and facial recognition, the answer is comfortingly old school; the RAC recommends a return to more traditional means of security, including some rumination on where to park your car – ideally a well-lit location in an area not known for criminal activity. Concealing your valuables – that old chestnut – still serves as a powerful disincentive for criminals looking to break into a car.

In an amusingly kitschy turn of events, security professionals have also advised a nod to the 80s with a revived use of the tangible security lock. Clunky, awkward and inelegant, the devices are thought to provide a robust visual and physical deterrent. Which, in an age of fancy gadgets and seemingly boundless tech, feels terribly salt-of-the-earth, albeit a bit of a pain. High-tech vehicle owners, you have been warned.

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