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Stealing a BMW, Is Yours Next

We are all familiar with the simple fact that cars are stolen almost every minute of the day. It is nothing new. However the car manufacturers have tried to continually limit the cars that get stolen. One of the things they have done is to make Radio Frequency (RF) unique identity type keys.

BMWs and many other cars don't actually have physical metal keys, but a piece of plastic that slots into the dash – it's this connection that allows the car to be started. These were supposed to have made it impossible to steal those cars.

As most of us know, there is nothing that can not be stolen if a thief wants it. A thief has 24 hours a day to find a way to steal it, whereas you may only have 15 minutes of that day to stop them.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) program Watchdog aired an episode on September 12, 2012 demonstrating how a late model BMW was stolen in about 3 minutes without the thief having a key. It also clearly demonstrated that even a novice (the reporter) can do it. The program segment was not available for viewers outside of the UK until someone posted the video on youtube. However, even there it has received less than 3000 views.

In the UK the situation is now so bad police in London and Birmingham have been leaving leaflets on BMW's to warn them of the dangers. The thefts, affecting tens of thousands of BMW models produced between 2006 and 2011, involve the programming of a new blank key to match the vehicle's unique identity.

The reprogramming process usually takes a trained technician up to 40 minutes, but sly car thieves can manage it in minutes after smashing their way into the car, allowing them to start the vehicles and drive them away. X5 and X6 models are particular targets due to their high value.

For obvious reasons, Watchdog didn't reveal the intricate details of the process in the program, but it's understood that the device plugs into the vehicle's diagnostics port, something you might have spotted in your car's driver footwell. The thieves gain access by smashing your window, reaching in and plugging into your port. This by the way does not set off your alarm!

These ports are usually used for simple things like resetting the "service due" alert or reading fault codes using an OBD2 Scan Tool. Criminals have managed to crack BMW's software and use the port to program a new key.

While BMW models are currently being targeted, they're far from the only possible victims. With similar ports standard in almost all cars produced since 1996, most modern cars could be stolen in a similar way.

BMW issued the following statement: "Our engineers and technicians review all aspects of our vehicles constantly, including security systems, and after extensive research we are clear that none of our latest models – new 1 Series Hatch, 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series and 7 Series – nor any other BMW built after September 2011 can be stolen using the method highlighted.
"However, as responsible manufacturers we are looking at ways of mitigating against this new kind of attack. We are now in the process of offering any concerned customers of targeted models, extra technical measures which will mean the car cannot be taken using the piece of equipment highlighted in these stories, although of course there is no such thing as the 'unstealable' car."

BMW also suggests owners follow police advice on securing their car which includes making sure the doors are actually locked after using remote locking, checking carefully who has been given your keys (for example, valet parking) to ensure they haven't been cloned and parking in a locked garage or in sight of CCTV cameras where possible.

BMW owners are being warned insurance companies may refuse to pay out if their car is stolen by crooks who reprogram a new set of keys.

Many solutions have been offered from installing an extra immobilizer circuit with a  hidden switch, to steering wheel locks,  to relocating the port. Anything that slows a thief down and makes it harder is a good idea. We offer a solution that works in conjunction with the relocation. That extra measure of protection is one of a “Honey Pot” as people in the IT/IS field call it.

Here is the link to the forum that thoroughly explains how to relocate the OBD II port. The instructions are very easy to follow.

Our “Honey Pot” instructions are equally as easy to follow and should be performed while relocating your OBD II port.

You will need the following parts. Three 3M Scotchlocks, a used  OBD II port with about 12 inches of extra wiring, a roll of electrical tape, and a pair of pliers. The Scotchlocks and tape can be purchased from any auto parts store, the used OBD II port can be removed from any ‘junk car’ manufactured after 1996.

While relocating the original port, connect the three wires from the used OBD II port to the original using the Scotchlocks. See photo. Do not cut any of the wires! Simply tape them together to make it appear the used port is the original.

honey pot instruction photo

Document all of your extra protection with photos and receipts showing what extra steps you have taken to protect your car as this may help you with the insurance claim if you car gets stolen.


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2 Wheel Vehicle Applications
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