Mixed results from security tests on thirteen new cars

Respected Thatcham Research has released its first Consumer Security Ratings for 2020, having assessed the security features of 13 new cars.

The results show progress is being made by carmakers, but some models are still coming to market with inherent security vulnerabilities.

Vehicles are assessed by Thatcham Research security engineers for resistance to digital theft and to confirm that features, including immobiliser, alarm, double locking systems, and wheel security, meet minimum insurer requirements.

The reports shows three of the vehicles tested, the Hyundai i10 Premium Mpi (‘basic’ ), MG HS Excite T-GDI (‘poor’ ) and Tesla Model 3 (‘basic’ ), were missing some of these security features, and the Tesla’s rating will apply following an upcoming firmware update.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer of Thatcham Research, says 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.”

Billyeald also commented on the rating for the Tesla Model 3. “Thatcham Research has been working closely with Tesla on the security features on the Model 3. Its ability to enhance security functionality via advanced connectivity across all vehicles is a huge advantage.”

The Tesla Model 3 uses a different access system (Near Field Communications ) to the other cars tested and is not susceptible to the relay attack.

Can buyers count on keyless security?

The BMW X6 M50d, BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport, Land Rover Discovery Sport D150, Mini EV, Porsche Taycan, Skoda Superb, and Toyota Supra all gain ‘superior’ ratings for all-round security and the presence of a ‘relay attack fix’.

‘Poor’ ratings were given to the Mazda CX-30, MG HS Excite T-GDI, Subaru Forester e-Boxer XE Premium, and the Vauxhall Corsa Ultimate Turbo 100, all with keyless systems because Thatcham Research security engineers were able to access and start the vehicles using relay attack equipment.

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.

“Drivers should go into the dealership with their eyes open to keyless security and, if they do intend to specify the system, ask if a fix has been introduced. Your dealer is there to help with any queries or concerns and will know about system fitment and which type of fob is available.”

Thatcham Research was established by the motor insurance industry in the UK in 1969 with the specific aim of containing or reducing the cost of motor insurance claims while maintaining safety standards.

It remains the UK’s only ‘not for profit’ insurer funded research centre, and holds a unique position thanks to its involvement and engagement with vehicle manufacturers, regulators, law enforcement organisations, automotive bodies and insurers to provide a holistic view of the benefits or shortcomings of vehicle technologies. Its research is at the forefront of vehicle safety, security and repair.


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