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Six new cars gain ‘Superior’ rating in latest Thatcham Research security assessment

Six new cars have been assessed by independent automotive research centre Thatcham Research in its third Consumer Security Rating release of 2019, and all have achieved the top ‘Superior’ rating.

The Audi A6 Allroad, BMW 1 Series, BMW 8 Series and BMW X6, along with the Ford Puma and Volkswagen Passat gain ‘Superior’ ratings for all-round security and the presence of a relay attack fix.

Relay attacks occur when thieves use a computer device to boost the signal from keys stored inside a property to access and steal a car.

Thatcham tested one model for each of the six cars with keyless entry and start fitted. This may be an optional feature on some or all models.

Commenting on the latest results, Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research said: “The models rated from Audi, BMW, Ford and Volkswagen not only have strong all-round security but have also made motion sensor enabled fobs available as standard when buyers opt for keyless entry and start. It’s positive news for consumers that carmakers, in increasing measure, are making this fix available.

“The motion sensor fob is a good short-term option,” added Billyeald, “but the goal for carmakers must be to design out the vulnerability entirely. Until then, a fundamental security flaw remains.”

Motion sensors inside the fob detect when it has been stationary for a period and trigger a sleep mode. This means the fob will no longer respond to attempts to relay its signal. Full functionality is restored when the owner moves the key.

“We advise consumers to check how long it takes before the sleep mode on their keyless fob is engaged,” continues Billyeald. “Some fobs go to sleep in one or two minutes, others in 15 or even as long as 30 minutes.”

Billyeald said that efforts to cut keyless crime must continue. “Many owners who opted for keyless entry and start will have done so before a motion sensor fob was issued or will own a car where a fob of this type is not available at all.”

If a motion sensor fob is not available, Thatcham recommends that drivers should:

  • Consider purchasing a Faraday pouch and using it to store their fob at night. Owners are advised to test that it works for themselves
  • Check the driver’s manual to see if the fob can be switched off completely
  • Store fobs, spares included, away from household entry points

Billyeald concluded: “We urge manufacturers to bring keyless technology to market in secure form and remove from drivers the onus to provide additional security. Closer collaboration on the design and implementation of new technologies is the key to identifying vulnerabilities before they entrench in the vehicle parc.”