Car industry hits back at keyless car theft security tests

Both industry and manufacturers criticise Thatcham Research’s new assessments for keyless-theft protection and vehicle security systems

The car industry has hit back at a new vehicle security test that gave poor ratings to a number of new 2019 models for their alleged vulnerability to keyless and other types of theft.

The new assessments from Thatcham Research examine a car’s ability to resist increasingly common methods of theft, such as relay attacks and OBD (on-board diagnostics) hacks, and then gives a rating of either ‘Superior’, ‘Good’, ‘Basic’, ‘Poor’ or ‘Unacceptable’.

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Thatcham tried the test out on 11 brand-new 2019 models, seven of which received a rating of poor or worse. However, the industry was quick to fight back against these claims, calling Thatcham’s testing methods into question.

One of the cars rated as ‘poor’ by Thatcham was the new Kia ProCeed. A statement from the manufacturer said: “Thatcham has not communicated with us on this testing procedure and has not outlined how this rating was achieved.”

It added that another report from Thatcham on the same car from February 2019 gave the ProCeed a security rating of four out of five stars.

Hyundai also took issue with Thatcham’s methods. The hydrogen fuel-cell Nexo was also given a rating of ‘poor’, but Hyundai said example tested for its resistance to relay attacks was a pre-production prototype and was not equipped with the full security system found on customer cars.

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The only car tested to receive an ‘unacceptable’ rating was the new Suzuki Jimny, but the Japanese brand pointed out that the car is not available with keyless entry and has a mechanical steering column lock as opposed to an electronic one, so is not vulnerable to external relay attacks. Thatcham’s tests assess security are said to assess more than just keyless systems, however.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), said the organisation had “serious concerns” with the system, which he described as having been “developed in isolation” and “at odds” with its creator’s own insurance classification.

He added that it “does not compare like with like”, “has the potential to confuse rather than simplify a very complex issue” and “offers a signpost to thieves”.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham, defended the test, claiming that the point of it is to show consumers that if they buy a car with keyless entry, it will be “vulnerable” to theft.

He claimed that the test was “a collaborative process” and that manufacturers are always told in detail why their cars are scored in the way they are.

He added that the Kia ProCeed test from February 2019 was for insurance companies, not consumers and therefore takes a different approach, resulting in a different score.

Billyeald also said the new test takes all layers of security into account and that the Suzuki Jimny’s ‘unacceptable’ rating was because “the overall level of security on that vehicle is below the expectation for that class of car”.

In addition, Billyeald addressed Hyundai’s claims regarding the Nexo, saying that even though work is done on pre-production models, the final car is always tested for the rating that comes out when the model is released to the public.

Are you worried about your car being stolen through keyless entry? Let us know in the comments below…

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