It might be jarring to hear, but 100 million Volkswagens on the road are currently at risk of being stolen, and yours could be one of them.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have discovered a way to configure a cheap setup to remotely unlock and start every car Volkswagen has sold for the last 20 years—and that includes makes like Audi and Škoda.
Developing the tools for the attack is surprisingly easy. With $40, you can pull off this heist. All you need is a cheap, readily available piece of radio hardware that attaches to a receiver. This setup is used to intercept signals from the car owner's key fob, which is then used to electronically clone the key. The result is a device that functions like the original remote, and that's troubling. Why should you be worried?
- You'll receive no warning when your vehicle's security has been compromised.
- All it takes is the push of a button for your information to be intercepted.
- Once the signal's been intercepted and the numerical values cloned, the vehicle can be locked/unlocked an unlimited number of times.
Police in California have already been stumped by some vehicle thieves - armed with nothing more than an electronic device - breaking into cars. And earlier this year, Texas carjackers were arrested after stealing 30 Jeeps using only a laptop. Many believe they'e been using the technology outlined by the University of Birmingham's researchers. It's become a big enough issue for Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million cars and the FBI to issue an official warning.
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
6 Ways to Keep Your Vehicle Safe
Despite the threat, there are ways to protect your Volkswagen from these thieves. Here's a few tips.
1. Your car is not a safety deposit box.
Every time you exit your Volkswagen, take your valuables with you. Many times these thieves aren't looking to steal your car—they're looking to steal what's inside.
2. Use a real key.
You know, those old-fashioned metal sticks that you push into the ignition and turn. When there's no electronic signal to hack, the thieves can't get in.
3. Park in well-lit areas or near surveillance cameras.
Carjackers want to stay hidden and are less likely to break into cars where their identity could be compromised.
4. Appropriate insurance.
Does your policy cover stolen items or a stolen car? If not, give your provider a call. It's often not too expensive to upgrade, and you'll be glad you did if something should happen.
5. Key protection.
If thieves can't get a signal from your fob, they can't break into your car. Products like FobGuard block radio signals from reaching your key by creating a shield stitched from silver, copper, and nickel.
6. Use a steering wheel lock.
There's a certain level of irony for thieves who break into cars using the latest technology only to be thwarted by a steering wheel lock. They're affordable and easy to install when you park your car for the night.
Lastly, should you come face to face with a carjacker, remember that your safety comes first. Cars can be replaced, but you can't.