SBD Cautions On Computer-Aided Car Thieves

  • Immobiliser codes are strong enough to withstand attacks from laptops

David Beckham’s loss of two BMW X5's to car crooks has caused heated press speculation about a new breed of sophisticated thief who travels armed with a laptop rather than a crowbar. Reports in the wake of the soccer star’s latest loss highlighted a new risk to owners of premium models equipped with keyless entry and start-up systems from security software code breakers.

But international vehicle security consultancy SBD believes that accounts of the BMW’s security system being cracked in a matter of minutes may be wide of the mark. Its extensive independent research into vehicle immobiliser technology reveals the protection to be robust enough to require more than a few minutes’ tinkering to be disarmed.

David Bell, Managing Director said: "The level of encryption in a transponder is so high, that even a thief equipped with the appropriate software would need much longer than the time suggested for the taking away of Beckham’s BMW. The computing power required to break down the protection is way beyond the capacity of a laptop, unless the thieves have previously managed to source confidential security data about the car".

"We have undertaken extensive research in this field for our recent report on Key Component Management, which illustrates both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the systems deployed by manufacturers for storing the sensitive data for the programming of keys. Of greater concern than computer code cracking is the security provided by motor manufacturers and dealers to prevent bogus or criminal access to replacement keys and immobilisers. Obtaining a legitimate vehicle key through relatively simple fraud poses a much greater threat than the concept of thieves applying complex computer technology to do the job."

SBD’s report revealed that fraudulent access to replacement keys and security components remains a major issue. Its research encountered aftersales staff failing to authenticate documentation and proof of identity and demonstrated how some manufacturers operate inadequate security procedures.

13 May 2006 Staff

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