As she headed out for work the other morning, a GEB team member was flagged down by her neighbor. The night before, he had noticed a group of men moving slowly down the street holding a small device that admitted red, strobe-like lighting. He walked outside for a closer look and found one of the men sitting in the front seat of her car. He called out and scared them off, but not before her car had been riffled through.
She knew she’d locked her car the night before, so she began to research to how they’d been able to gain access her vehicle. Immediately she was inundated with stories and news articles about “relay attacks,” a rampant new trend in car burglary and theft.
In a relay attack, a relay amplifier device is used to identify cars with keyless entry, detect that car’s key fob signal from inside the house, even up to 300 feet away, and then transmit that signal to a relay transmitter device that then effectively becomes a clone of the car key. With a functional key at their disposal, the thieves can not only gain access to the vehicle but can also start and drive away in it. The entire process is silent and takes less than 60 seconds.
In a recent study, only seven of the 237 models tested successfully resisted an attack. Research also shows that high-end vehicles are most commonly targeted. Recognizing what a threat relay boxes pose to our clients, GEB has worked with the claims departments of our various carrier partners to determine the best ways to prevent these attacks:
- Park your car in a garage or well-lit area.
- Don't leave valuables in plain sight.
- Regularly check on software updates that may be available for your car.
- Check to see if your keyless entry/ignition can be switched on and off manually.
- Consider using a steering wheel lock.
- Consider adding a tracking device to your vehicle. While it may not prevent the theft, there is a 96% recovery rate for vehicles with trackers.
- The relay devices cannot penetrate metal, so storing your keys in a Faraday/RF Blocking pouch, metal safe or even tin foil will protect the signal from being transmitted.
While our employee was lucky to have a neighbor in the right place at the right time, two different clients in the last several months have not shared her good fortune. Both had vehicles stolen from out of their driveways by relay attack. We hope these will be the last claims of this nature we have to file. Follow the tips listed above to keep you, your family and your property safe.
Blog post by GEB Vice President, Betsy Ellis Clement