Device helps thieves steal cars, study shows

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A device developed by engineers for manufacturers to test the vulnerability of vehicle systems is allowing thieves to steal cars that use key fobs.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says the boxy device, about the size of a smartphone, captures a signal from a nearby key fob then uses the signal to gain entry illegally. The device only works on models with push-button start, according to the NICB.

The so-called “Relay Attack” device is thought to be how thieves have stolen vehicles that were supposed to be extremely difficult to steal.

The NICB purchased a device that it tested on cars at participating dealerships.

In the series of unscientific tests, the device opened 19 of 35 vehicles. In 18 of those 19 entries, it was also able to start the vehicle and drive away.

“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” NICB CEO Joe Wehrle said in a statement. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner.”

The group suggested that vehicle owners take their remote fob or keys with them at all times and not leave any valuables in plain sight.

Read more at USA Today.com.