Several new cars, including one of Britain’s best-sellers have been given a “poor” security rating by leading testing body Thatcham Research.
Models from Vauxhall, Subaru, Mazda and MG were all criticised for failing to defend against relay attacks while others’ ratings were downgraded because of a lack of common security features.
Thatcham Research, which works with the insurance industry on testing theft prevention, said that its first Consumer Security Ratings of 2020 showed an improvement across the industry but some models were still potentially leaving owners at risk.
The Vauxhall Corsa, Mazda CX-30, MG HS and Subaru Forester e-Boxer were all found to be vulnerable to relay attacks, where thieves can open and start with a “keyless” system by intercepting the signal between fob and car.
Many manufacturers have been working to tackle this with technology such as motion-sensitive fobs which can deactivate themselves but car thefts are still increasing, with the technology believed to be partly to blame.
While four models were rated poor due to relay attack vulnerability, others were given “basic” ratings due to the lack of common security features.
Thatcham tests cars for resistance to digital theft, such as relay attacks, and to confirm that features, including immobiliser, alarm, double locking systems and wheel security, meet minimum insurer requirements.
Three of the vehicles tested - the Hyundai i10 Premium Mpi, MG HS Excite T-GDI and Tesla Model 3, were missing some of these security features, resulting in a “basic” rating.
Minimum standard drivers should expect
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, commented: “The keyless vulnerability continues to be a concern to car owners. However, it is not the only factor behind recent increases in vehicle theft.
“Our assessment found that the rated Hyundai, MG and Tesla models are missing some commonly accepted security measures. These measures were introduced to improve core car security and represent the minimum today’s drivers should expect, whatever the vehicle price point.”
While the testing exposed weaknesses in some models, several others gained “superior” ratings for their anti-theft measures.
The BMW X6, BMW 218, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mini EV, Porsche Taycan, Škoda Superb and Toyota Supra all attained the top rating for their all-round security and the presence of a relay attack fix to stop signal interception.
Billyeald added: “The number of carmakers now offering relay attack counter-measures with new vehicles is steadily increasing and should be applauded. However, all new cars with keyless systems ought to have a solution to this long-standing vulnerability in place.
“It’s also important to remember that the motion-sensor fob, while a good short-term fix, is not the ultimate solution to the keyless vulnerability, which should be designed out of new vehicles completely in the future.”
The rated vehicles
VehicleRatingBMW X6 M50dSUPERIORBMW 218i Gran Coupe M SportSUPERIORHyundai i10 Premium MpiBASICLand Rover Discovery Sport D150SUPERIORMazda CX-30POORMini EVSUPERIORMG HS Excite T-GDIPOORPorsche Taycan TurboSUPERIORŠkoda SuperbSUPERIORSubaru Forester e-Boxer XE PremiumPOORTesla Model 3BASICToyota SupraSUPERIORVauxhall Corsa Ultimate Turbo 100POOR