A device used to steal cars which has befuddled law enforcement has been identified as a tool for testing vehicle's network safety, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The device was noticed by police a few years ago, when thieves were recorded using a small electronic device to unlock car doors and even to start car engines without the car's keys. NICB did some investigating and discovered that the device is most likely a Relay Attack unit. The unit is meant to assist carmakers in testing the network security of their products, but in the wrong hands it becomes a powerful tool for thieves. NICB obtained a Relay Attack unit via a third party security expert. That expert ordered the unit from an overseas company.

NICB did an informal test, and discovered that this particular device only worked on cars with keyless remotes and push to start ignitions. NICB was able to unlock 19 – more than half – of the cars tested. They were able to start and drive away in 18 of the cars, and were able to restart 12 of the vehicles using the device again after turning them off. Unfortunately, there really is no way to combat this form of crime yet. The best way to avoid being a victim is to never leave valuables inside of a car, and park a car in a closed garage if possible.

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