It seems that the car theft technique used in the movie Gone in 60 Seconds, starring Angelina Jolie and Nicholas Cage, has become a reality. BMWs are being stolen by thieves hacking into the security system.
Thieves in the Midlands are stealing expensive BMWs by using computer software to reprogramme the car’s engine management system so that they can start the car using a dummy key fob.
To do this they have to smash the car’s window so that they can plug in the reprogramming device, which is actually designed to help garages carry out diagnostics and repair work. Then they simply wait a couple of minutes while the car is altered to recognise their key.
According to some industry sources, this problem has arisen because it’s possible for anyone to buy the reprogramming gadget for as little as £70 online.
So, even though car theft is going down overall, more BMWs have been stolen so far this year in the West Midlands than in the previous year (314 thefts compared to 258).
The insecurities of high-tech car security
This raises the question – if carmakers are making their cars ever more sophisticated in all sorts of ways, why aren’t they able to stop them from being stolen?
It seems that every time manufacturers bring out new security technology they think will make their cars harder to pinch, but criminals simply take a bit of time to work out a way round it. And that seems to have been true for many years.
So is there a case for ditching all the high-tech kit, such as start-stop ignition buttons that only require the car’s key to be in the vicinity to allow the car to start? Perhaps we should go back to old fashioned ignition systems where the steering can be locked when the car is parked. At least with these, the car is immobilised when the key isn’t in the ignition and no electronic gadgetry can be used to unlock them.
And do we really need keys that will recognise our car as we walk towards it and unlock the doors? Or keys that allow us to wave our foot under the back of the car to open the boot?
As a parent who’s frequently loaded up like a pack horse with school and shopping bags, I can see the benefit, but not if it means a thief will be able to pinch my car more easily.