Car-theft kit for sale on Amazon: How web giants are 'helping criminals' buy devices that can be used to steal vehicles for as little as £100

Car-theft kit for sale on Amazon: How web giants are 'helping criminals' buy devices that can be used to steal vehicles for as little as £100

• The hacking devices allow thieves to reprogramme blank fob keys to start cars
• Daily Mail used tools to 'steal' a car in two minutes after using a lock pick
• A crime commissioner accused 'irresponsible' retailers of helping criminals
PUBLISHED: 18:40 EDT, 22 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:41 EDT, 22 April 2018
Electronic gadgets that can be used to steal cars in seconds are being sold online for as little as £100.

Available on Amazon and eBay, the hacking devices allow thieves to reprogramme a blank key fob so it can start a car’s ignition.

The Daily Mail deployed the tools to ‘steal’ a test car in two minutes after getting into the vehicle with a lock pick, which was also on sale online.

A crime commissioner accused ‘irresponsible’ web retailers of helping criminals, saying the devices should be taken off sale.

Police chiefs say car theft, which has almost doubled in some areas, has become ‘child’s play’. More than 86,000 cars were stolen in 2016 – 30 per cent more than in 2013. The Mail’s investigation found that:

• Amazon buyers who have used the devices brazenly post reviews on how effective they are;
• A £93 key programming device arrived the next day after being bought through Prime delivery;
• Car hacking websites advertise courses on how to steal cars with key programmers, asking: ‘Which targets do you want to attack?’

Car theft had been in decline following the introduction of immobilisers, alarm systems and tracking devices. But the array of new electronic gadgets has helped thieves to outsmart manufacturers and police.

Two main methods of car theft deploy devices available to buy online. The first type ‘relays’ a signal from the keys inside the owner’s home to their vehicle outside. This opens the car’s doors and allows the criminals to make off with the vehicle.

Offenders have been caught on CCTV strolling up driveways, holding the devices against the owner’s front door and keylessly stealing their vehicle.

These relay devices are not on Amazon or eBay, but are sold on internet sites which can be found via Google searches.

The second method is a simple technique and one that the Mail has chosen not to detail. It involves forcing entry to the car and using a programming device that tells the vehicle’s computer to trust a blank key.

Using gadgets available from Amazon and eBay, the Mail managed to break into and ‘steal’ a Ford Fiesta – Britain’s best-selling car – in under two minutes.

The first item used was a lockpick specifically made for use in Ford models. Similar devices, which come with their own imitation Ford-logo embossed leather pouch, are available for £21 on Amazon.

After gaining entry, an electronic key programmer device purchased on eBay for £130 was used to hook up to the car’s computer system.

The gadget quickly reprogrammed the car’s computer to accept a blank key compatible with Ford that the Mail had bought on Amazon for £4.99.

The lockpick device was inserted into the physical ignition port of the car, and the newly programmed key fob was held up next to it. This was enough to start the car.

Peter Thompson, of CanTrack Global, a specialist stolen vehicle recovery service, said the devices the Mail used were common among car thieves.

‘It’s very sophisticated. Within seconds, with no security needed, I can get into it and drive off’, he said. ‘This is a very common form of attack. Amazon and eBay are unwittingly making the availability of the latest electronic attack tools freely available to anyone and on a next-day-delivery basis.

‘Some of these tools are highly technical, and while they are legal to purchase, and legal to own they are illegal to use.’

David Jamieson, police and crime commissioner of the West Midlands, where car theft has soared by 80 per cent, criticised Amazon for selling programming devices.

‘We have a problem’, he said. ‘We are back to the bad old days. In the last two years car theft has been going through the roof and showing no signs of getting smaller.

‘Somebody could have bought a gizmo, ordered it last night, have it delivered this morning and be stealing your car with it today.

‘I’m saying to those companies these devices shouldn’t be openly on the market for sale. I have written to both eBay and Amazon asking them to remove the sale of these devices off their websites.

‘EBay did tell me that they would take them off, however we found that they were all still on the website the following morning. I am challenging those people who are providing these pieces of equipment as to why they are still providing them.
‘The fact they have yet to respond or take them down means they’re helping criminals – and it’s irresponsible of them to do so.’

Key programmers have been part of the car thief’s toolkit for a decade – but experts say their widespread availability and low cost has contributed to their increased use in the past couple of years.

‘It has moved out of the specialist and into the mainstream’, said Mr Thompson. ‘A new generation of tech savvy criminals is coming into it with no real barriers of entry.’

All the devices purchased by the Mail have a legitimate use, and many car owners use key programming devices to look at their car’s diagnostics, saving themselves costly trips to the mechanics.

The law against ‘going equipped for theft’ makes it an offence to be caught carrying equipment used to commit crime without being able to prove it was legitimate.

This means that the devices used to aid car theft can be bought, sold and owned – and police would essentially have to catch a criminal red-handed to prove an offence had been committed.

Amazon reviewers leave advice and tips for other users, with one key programmer even providing ‘a list of vehicles I have used this on’, detailing its varying success on a Hyundai, a Toyota, a Honda and a Subaru.

Last week Mr Jamieson told an emergency summit of police, car manufacturers and security experts: ‘Amazon are selling things with a star rating – four or five stars for how easy it is to steal your car.

‘Here we’ve got, quite legally, Amazon, eBay and plenty of others marketing to overcome security systems in a vehicle.

‘That’s just astonishing that we allow that in this country.’

He called for tougher regulation online, including trade accreditation for buyers and sellers.

‘A system of registration, so only legitimate people can get hold of these things. At the moment it’s child’s play.’

Anthony Stansfeld, police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, also demanded action.

He said: ‘This is a serious problem which needs to be sorted out by the car manufacturers.’

Conservative MP Steve Double said: ‘Expensive cars attract ever bigger crooks who steal to order or for export and who have the technical expertise and equipment to make this happen. My view would be to look at tougher legislation on the sale and use of tracking devices as well as increasing awareness of steps to combat modern car break-ins.’

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: ‘Recent increases in vehicle crime are concerning and it’s an issue the industry takes extremely seriously.

He said manufacturers ‘supported action that will prevent the sale and use of cloning technologies, signal blocking and other devices that have no legal purpose’.

A spokesman for eBay said it had a policy against selling lock-picking devices, including key programmers.

He said: ‘We will continue to remove them, they are prohibited on our site. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.’

Amazon declined to comment.

A Home Office spokesman said it had ‘no plans to introduce new regulations in this area because as with all calls for a change in the law, there needs to be a strong evidence base’. She added: ‘There is only limited, anecdotal evidence pointing to the use of key programmers and relay attack devices in vehicle-related theft.

‘The Home Office will continue to work with the police, industry and others to consider the evidence and what more can be done to prevent vehicle-related theft, and that includes bolstering the evidence about the availability and use of devices to compromise vehicle security.’ A spokesman for Ford said the firm ‘takes vehicle security seriously and continuously invests in technology to deter theft of, and from, our vehicles’.

He added: ‘Keyless entry technology, which is being overridden by thieves with “relay box” equipment, has been on Fiesta, other Fords and competitor makes for over ten years.

‘A growing issue for the industry is the availability of security tools, which should be confined to dealerships and other specialists, being on uncontrolled public sale.’

Just a mouse click away, the devices thieves buy to steal YOUR car 
Using tools easily available on Amazon and eBay, the Mail effectively stole a Ford Fiesta in under two minutes.

The car, which was volunteered for testing by CanTrack Global vehicle specialists, was locked and its keys were not present.

Using a lock pick specific to Ford models, of which similar devices are available on Amazon for £21, we were able to gain access to the car.

Thieves carrying out a ‘key programming’ attack may also use blunt force such as breaking a window to get inside the car.

Next, we used a key programmer device, purchased on eBay for £130, to plug into the car’s computer system. The device can be used on a range of models and tells the car to trust a new key and forget the code for the original one.

The third tool the Mail used for the hack was a £4.99 blank key compatible with Fords, bought from Amazon the previous day.

The blank key fob can easily be programmed with the new key.

The lock pick used to gain entry to the car can then be used to start the vehicle, when used in combination with the newly reprogrammed fob.

Thieves may also bypass the ignition port by breaking it away altogether. Once it is bypassed, and the blank key fob is programmed, the car can then be started up.

A savvy car owner who had lost their car keys could legitimately use the key programming device to programme a new set for themselves. But car thieves have taken advantage of this function to code keys as well.

Other less sophisticated key programming devices require the owner’s key to be nearby, with relay attack equipment used to obtain its code.

Police forces have said that relay attacks and key programming operations are often used in conjunction by thieves, making it difficult to tell which technique is more prevalent. 


Popular posts from this blog

Report: World’s 1st remote brain surgery via 5G network performed in China

BMW traps alleged thief by remotely locking him in car

Visualizing The Power Of The World's Supercomputers