Many of today’s cars are technological marvels. While we once only expected our vehicles to transport us safely from point A to point B, modern consumers are increasingly looking for a connected car experience. GPS navigation devices and advanced engine monitoring systems are now often standard features, as is the ability to link our car to a phone and connect it to the internet. We can also use telematics devices to remotely monitor our vehicle when someone else is using it.
Although impressive, these capabilities don’t necessarily make your vehicle completely safe from theft. In fact, some “connected” thieves have learned to exploit the latest technology to break in, steal your car and even take your identity. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the latest ways thieves can gain access to your vehicle—and to understand why adopting a layered security approach is still the best way to stop them in their tracks.
Unlocking the Strategies of the Connected Thief
As of last year, came equipped with internet access, to say nothing of the many other models currently on the road with GPS, Bluetooth® and other advanced technology. The connected thief no longer has to break a window or force open a door to steal a vehicle. Instead, they now have a wide variety of creative ways to take what they want. This is why, to better protect your vehicle, you should be aware of the following potential strategies the modern thief may use.
- Vehicle ransom
Recently, the WannaCry virus made headlines for infecting computers around the world and forcing their owners to pay a ransom to access their data. Although a similar attack hasn’t been carried out on vehicles yet, experts worry it’s only a matter of time due to the prevalence of computer processors and internet-enabled technology in today’s cars. Fiat Chrysler, for instance, had to issue a security update to to combat an exploit researchers found that allowed them to take control of dashboard functions, steering, transmission and brakes.
- Scanner boxes
Remote keyless systems, which replace traditional keys with wireless fobs, are one of the most common features of today’s cars. Modern car thieves have become particularly adept at exploiting these wireless fobs. In fact, there are now multiple devices with radio transmitters—many of which can be easily purchased online—that will figure out a vehicle’s unique key fob and unlock its doors. The National Insurance Crime Bureau
- Identity theft
When a thief steals a car, they also gain access to any valuables left inside it. This can often include personal items that give thieves access to your identity, such as wallets or laptops. In this way, identity theft can be a parallel problem with vehicle theft. And now, vehicles equipped with internet access and built-in GPS navigation devices further exacerbate this risk since thieves can obtain your sensitive data even without finding personal items in your car. For instance, thieves could find your home or work address in your GPS navigation device, or use your vehicle’s internet access to obtain your banking and credit card information.
- Vehicle identification number (VIN) cloning
While this strategy doesn’t necessarily make use of today’s connected-car technology, it’s a sophisticated tactic that in part led the U.S. Department of Justice to create a national database of vehicles. After stealing a vehicle, thieves commonly replace its VIN with another vehicle’s VIN to mask the theft. This “cloned” vehicle can then be sold—complete with phony documents—to unwitting dealerships and individuals much more easily. The
Driving a Layered Security Approach
Although the tactics of the connected car thief may seem daunting, as drivers, we can protect ourselves and our vehicles by adopting a layered security approach. This involves practicing simple, common-sense measures proven to effectively deter the vast majority of thieves, in addition to using more advanced theft prevention products and tracking systems.
- Common-sense safety tips
Simple measures are some of the best ways to help protect your vehicle from the amateur thief. Here are some easy-to-follow tips you can use that will go a long way to discourage thieves from targeting your vehicle:
- Don’t ever leave your keys in your car, especially when it’s running.
- Never hide a spare key in or attached to the frame of your car.
- Close all windows and lock all doors when you leave your vehicle.
- Park in a well-lit area and, if possible, leave your car in a garage.
- Never leave any valuables in your car, especially if they contain personal information.
- If you have a GPS navigation system, don’t give your home address an obvious label, such as “Home.” This can lead thieves right to your door.
- Theft-prevention products
A number of before- and after-market theft-prevention products will help you even further deter thieves. These include alarm systems, wheel locks and clubs, and immobilizers such as smart keys, kill switches and fuel cut-off devices. While some sophisticated thieves may know how to work around and disable such devices, many others will move onto another car they can break into with less effort. Often, all that’s needed is a visual deterrent, such as a sticker or blinking light warning them of an alarm, to discourage a thief from trying to break in.
- Tracking and recovery systems
That said, for connected thieves who are skilled and determined enough, there may be little you can do to deter them. But even in the worst-case scenario, covert tracking and recovery systems like the LoJack® System can operate undetected and help the police track your stolen vehicle. Because it is directly integrated with law enforcement and transmits a radio-frequency signal that can penetrate metal, concrete and heavily wooded areas, you may stand a better chance of having your vehicle recovered. In fact, the LoJack System has a 90 percent recovery rate on cars, trucks and SUVs.*
Protecting Your Vehicle Intelligently
Even as car technology continues to evolve, car thieves are constantly honing their techniques. While these thieves pose new risks to drivers and automobile manufacturers, you can make yourself a less desirable target by following simple but effective common sense tips such as locking your car. If you combine this approach with a stolen vehicle recovery product like the LoJack System—which helps protect you from loss due to auto theft—you are putting yourself in a better position to combat auto theft and its financial implications.
*LoJack® unit activation is contingent upon the vehicle being located within LoJack’s coverage area that spans counties across 29 states throughout the US and the District of Columbia. You may find LoJack’s coverage areas at www.lojack.com/coverage or by calling 1-800-4-LoJack.