How do thieves steal modern day vehicles?

Vehicle theft is one of the more important threats to vehicle ownership in South Africa. Vehicles are stolen through some highly innovative means – but also through aggression and violent means such as vehicle hijacking. The thieves can by either individual opportunists or part of some highly organized crime syndicates.

Vehicle tracking companies are providing new technology all the time to prevent loss of vehicle ownership, whilst insurance companies are rewarding those vehicle owners who protect their vehicles with state of the art technology. This technology in tracking and stolen vehicle recovery [SVR market] can be seen as an important component in the fast growing vehicle and insurance telematics industry.

We would like to consider on Insurance Chat the latest findings on vehicle theft and how modern day vehicles are stolen. The information has been made available by the Crime Insurance Bureau and relates to findings by SBD (Secured by Design Ltd). SBD is an independent, technical consultancy specialising in the design and development of vehicle security, low speed crash, telematics and ITS systems.

We would like to quote:

“Developments in vehicle security over recent years have made it increasingly difficult for thieves to steal vehicles by conventional means and this has led to thieves using burglary and fraud, as well as more advanced methods of theft.

This white paper has been prepared exclusively by SBD in order to alert the automotive industry to the increasing security threat posed by the use of electronic theft tools.

The current situation

Statistics show that on a global scale the number of vehicle thefts has been steadily declining over the past 10 years but in developed markets the latest data shows that reductions are beginning to slow and in some instances theft numbers are starting to rise again.

There are huge new vehicle markets emerging in Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC group), and it is likely that the demand from these markets will be partially met using stolen vehicles. Thieves in these markets are learning from the knowledge and experience of criminals from overseas who have been stealing cars for many years.

Advances in technology have made it difficult for thieves to steal modern cars through the use of low tech methods and equipment. As such, it is becoming increasingly popular for Organised Crime Groups (OCG) to utilise electronic theft tools to acquire vehicles.

Electronic theft tools are designed to bypass on-board security systems either by imitating the coded signals sent from key transponders and radio frequency (RF) devices or by utilising OE key learning protocols to program keys. Despite the complexity of modern vehicles and the security systems built into their electronic architecture, there are still weaknesses that attack tool designers have been able to exploit.

There is a common misconception, especially amongst insurers, that new cars cannot be stolen without the use of the original key. The reality is that although immobilisers have been responsible for the significant theft reduction in the markets where they are fitted, the availability of technical information and the expertise with which to identify system weaknesses means that a range of tools and methods are now widely available.

Achieving advanced vehicle security does not necessarily mean expensive changes are necessary. Improvements can be made to existing systems. SBD believe that vehicle manufacturers and suppliers need to take steps to understand the current vulnerabilities that are being exploited in order to design more robust security systems to tackle the problems being faced by the increasing popularity and availability of electronic theft tools.”

In a next post we will discuss vehicle theft tools.

Also view:

Vehicle and Insurance Telematics

What is Insurance Telematics and how will it impact on Car Insurance?

Vehicle Theft and Car Insurance

3 thoughts on “How do thieves steal modern day vehicles?

  • November 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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    Good stuff. Noticed that in 2009, the top 10 stolen cars stolen were somewhat “high end” vehicles. I thought that my new 2012 Boss 302 limited edition Mustang would be difficult to steal and that someone would have to tow it away. Apparently not. I assume my car as well as many others warrant a thief the time it would take to learn and bypass the manufactures preventive mechanisms.

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