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Car hacking technology sees thefts rise by 19%

By Tom Gibson | July 18, 2023

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Data revealed by the National Crime Agency shows criminals are paying upwards of £2,500 for tech that allows them to drive off in stolen cars without keys

Car hacking technology sees thefts rise by 19%

Organised crime gangs are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their operations meaning car theft has shot up by a staggering 20% - despite it already being high.

In the latest figures issued by the National Crime Agency (NCA), criminals are increasingly turning to devices that are available on the black market and allow car computers to be hacked.

Car manufacturers have placed increase emphasis on strengthening security of keyless fobs but the “electronic compromise” thefts also bypass those.

Thieves then drive off into the sunset with the stolen vehicle and either almost instantly ship them abroad in ‘stolen to order’ thefts, or take the cars to ‘chop shops’, where the cars are broken down for parts.

The hacking systems can be bought for £2,500 online or on the encrypted message service Telegram.

The devices contributed to a 19% rise in vehicle thefts in 2022 when 110,739 cases were reported - up from 93,006 in 2021.

The vast majority of cars stolen are higher end models.

“The high levels of organisation make it difficult for law enforcement to recover vehicles with criminals using further methods such as tampering with vehicle information to avoid detection,” said the NCA.

Graeme Biggar, head of the NCA, said the cost of living crisis will likely lead to a rise in “high harm” car thefts, robberies and burglaries, as gangs exploit the vulnerable and try to make more money through offending.

Mr Biggar added it was “highly likely that all areas of organised acquisitive crime will increase” in the coming years.

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