Bimma Benz or Bentley

There as been a recent upsurge in the theft of luxury cars in the UK in past few years according to interpol. Police in an upscale neighbourhood had reported an increase in car break ins but recently those break ins have turned into car thefts.

This trend has been linked to cyber criminals using devices that mimic the cars key fob allowing criminals gain access to your car. Early reports claim that at first the thieves were only able to unlock the vehicle and gain access to valuables, but now new cctv footage shows the criminals simply walking up to the car and driving off.

Watch how thieves drive off with an E-63 AMG HERE 

Ghost Key

This type of attack is known as a relay or a replay attack, it simply means capturing the key fob signal with a device and then replying it with another device that mimics the car key. This is just one of the many new ways cyber criminals are stealing cars.

$2500 relay device. key mimic device (left) Signal capture device (Right)

A relay device on the black market would sell for as much $2500, this year researchers managed to make a s device for just $211. The relay device was once used by automotive  companies to test the security of their cars but now it has become the favorite tool of car thieves.

$211 homemade relay attack device

Keyless Entry

Inorder for car owners to enjoy the joys of keyless entry and push to start, automakers designed a key fob that are constantly communicates with the cars computer. This is how your car recognizes when you approach it and the doors unlock, you get it in and simply push the start button.

The criminals have taken advantage of this by using this relay device to steal the key fob signal, amplify the signal and then replay it and gain access to the car. Automakers thought they solved the problem by encrypting the signal but the replay device does not need to make sense of the data, all it needs to do is capture the signal and replay it!

Watch how thieves drive off with ANOTHER  E-63 AMG HERE 

Luxury Car Market

Interpol indicates that most of the luxury cars which include Mercedes, BMWs, Range Rovers and Lexus are being shipped to Africa where the growing middle class has an appetite for these cars, mainly the east African market. Over 6000 vehicles have been stolen in this manner since 2014 and that figure is likely to rise.

“The criminals seem to be one step of the manufacturers, they say they fixed the problem but the cars still keep dissapearing-BMW owner”


Security companies have all come to the conclusion that alot more research needs to be done by automakers, before installing high tech gadgets they must make sure that the gadgets are secure.

Here are some tips that help reduce the chances of an attacker using a relay device on you:

  1. Place the key fob in metal tin when in the house, or use a faraday bag to carry your key fob in.
  2. Some key fobs come with an off/on switch on it, try to keep it on off as often as possible.
  3. Use the physical door button when entering the car, avoid using the key fob.
  4. Add another alarm system to your car, this will add another layer of security which may slow down or deter the criminals.
  5. Use physical security deterrents e.g steering wheel lock.

This is just one way criminals are using technology to steal cars, there have been reports of cars being hacked through on board wireless systems, malware and even the OBD. The more computerised cars get the more avenues criminals will have for hacking.