With the Right Device, Current BMWs Are Easy to Steal

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News Posted: Thu, Sep 13 2012 4:10 PM

With all of the advances made to vehicle technology in recent years, it'd be easy to assume that security has never been better. A video showing security footage released to the Web a couple of months ago proves otherwise, however, as thieves managed to approach a BMW one minute, and drive off with it moments later - all without having the original key.

Unfortunately, that wasn't a one-off event. With reports of BMW thefts increasing in certain areas around the UK, BBC's Watchdog looked into the matter and discovered things that could make any Bimmer owner cringe. Not only is it possible to steal a current BMW within 3 minutes, the device used to pull it off is available online for anyone to purchase.

BMWs have computers under the hood like most other cars, but to "improve" security, these ones have a special function. Via radio waves, the owner's key will communicate with the computer when inserted, and if it's recognized, the door can be opened and the car started up. But what if you lose your key? This is where things get scary. The same computer used to acknowledge your key is also able to create a new key in event the original is ever lost. The devices required to do this are expensive, but for thieves who are able to drive off with a fresh BMW, you'd have to imagine it pays for itself very quickly.

Not wanting to simply take someone's word for it, BBC went ahead and purchased such a device and tested it out on a BMW. Within a couple of minutes, this reporter who had no prior experience with the device, managed to start the car up. Quite simply, it seems that any BMWs produced after 2006 can be easily stolen should someone have this device - which by all accounts seems legal to own.

So, is BMW frantically working on a solution? Sadly, no. The company doesn't believe there's an issue, and goes on to state that the problem is not unique to BMWs:

"There is no specific BMW security issue here, this is something which affects many brands, however organised criminals have targeted particularly desirable cars, with higher value parts and that is why BMW is amongst the brands affected."

The company goes on to suggest that owners take extra precaution with their vehicles, although I'm left questioning what precautions could possibly be taken. The option to park in a secure garage isn't always there, so short of locking your tires each and every time you leave your car (highly unrealistic), it seems the cars will remain ripe for the taking.

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4L1G8R replied on Thu, Sep 13 2012 5:04 PM

I actually agree with BMW. The main reason that their cars are targeted, is because their cars cost so much. So they actually could do something about it, but it would be lowering the cost of their cars, which they would never want to do. Stick out tongue

The other option is to require all new keys to come from the factory, but that has a lot of problems too, and I'm not sure it would even totally fix this one.

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Inspector replied on Thu, Sep 13 2012 6:44 PM

Each company should just make a special connector/device that stores sensitive information. Then have only a certain amount of these connectors created with a device that can only access it under a certain code or something and given to each dealer that is allowed to make keys. IDK if that would work, but its worth thinking of xD

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JOMA replied on Fri, Sep 14 2012 7:54 AM

Pretty scary. That's the problem with all the technology and conveniences. At some point it backfires.

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ThePinkus replied on Fri, Sep 14 2012 12:54 PM

Of course it is an issue - BMW's (and other companies' and sadly their customers') issue, if they allow the instrument that can be used to stole their cars from the legitimate owners to be in the wild and uncontrolled.

If this instrument is a convenience (and it is), then at least make it and its use trackable (I have to be online to play some games, and not so to "reclaim" a 100 k€ car?).

If they boast the value of the cars they sell, good - support that value by providing an increased security.

This state of things is unacceptable, it sounds as having the great convenience to download to Your phone the app to recover the... hemm... forgotten... codes of this credit card here...

Why Mastercard and Visa do not provide such service, I wonder?

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