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Proximity Keys Made It Easier Than Ever For Thieves To Steal Cars

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Here's why you might not want to put all your faith in new anti-theft technology.

Just when you thought your shiny new driveway queen was safe from everything but the jealous eyes of your neighbors, there's now another reason to feel the need to park inside the garage and spoil the fun. That reason, according to Automotive News, would be thieves wielding sophisticated devices that allow them to unlock the doors of newer cars that use proximity keys and subsequently drive away, leaving little to no evidence of the crime.

After getting our GMC Acadia press vehicle broken into recently, we know the woes that the victims of theft go through. The National Insurance Crime Bureau got ahold of one such mystery device and, in conjunction with CarMax, decided to test it on 35 different vehicles at new and used car dealerships. Of the 35 cars, the NICB was able to get inside of 19 vehicles and drive away in 18. Unlike the movies would have you believe, the device, which comes in two parts, doesn't simply scan through codes until it finds the one that unlocks the car. Instead it picks up on the signal emitted by a key fob up to ten feet away. It then relays that to the second part of the device, which then acts like a proximity key and can unlock the car and start it up.

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By using the device, thieves can easily break into a car and drive off without leaving any evidence behind. This type of crime works well in residential areas given that most owners throw their keys on the nightstand or a key hook, locations in range of the signal scanners. The NICB insists that it's impossible to know how many cars have been stolen using the device, especially since the mystery boxes can be made and sold by anyone with a background in computers and are relatively hard to track or pull off the black market. The responsibility of stopping this sort of crime lies on the shoulders of the automakers, which have pushed proximity keys onto the public and left a gaping security hole.

"It's a matter of tug of war between manufacturers and thieves," said NICB spokesman Roger Morris. For those paranoid that their hot new cars could be stolen out from under their noses, fear not because there are safety measures you can take to ensure your hard earned dream car isn't driven off your driveway. The most obvious is to keep the keys on your person and leave them far away from the car at night. A more secure option is to purchase a special shield box, which blocks its signals from getting out and being read, and put the keys in at night or when not in use.