Ford has added new tech to its Puma and Kuga SUVs that makes it harder for thieves to hack the keyless entry system. Already in use on the Fiesta and Focus, the technology sends the key into a sort of sleep mode when it isn’t in use, making it harder for thieves to intercept the signal and unlock the car.
Keyless entry systems have made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years, with cars of all makes and models susceptible to so-called ‘relay attacks’. These thefts involve intercepting the signal between the key and the car, then relaying it to the vehicle to fool it into thinking the key is present.
Such thefts can be completed in a matter of seconds, and the necessary equipment is relatively easy to buy online. As a result, these relay attacks are now so common that stolen vehicle recovery firm Tracker reckons 93 percent of all thefts are conducted in this way.
But Ford says it has reduced the risk of relay attacks by fitting a motion sensor to its key fobs, allowing them to deactivate when not in use. After lying motionless for 40 seconds, the key effectively shuts down, meaning it will not respond to attempts to hack its signal. The key reactivates when it next moves.
The system is already offered on Fiesta and Focus models, but Ford has now added the technology to its fast-selling Puma and Kuga SUVs, as well as the new Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.
In the case of the Fiesta, Ford says the new key fobs have reduced keyless theft dramatically. Around three in every 1,000 previous-generation Fiestas, which were not available with this technology, were stolen in 2020, but Ford claims to have slashed that ratio to one in 1,000 with the latest-generation model.
The American company says existing models can be upgraded with replacement sleep-mode fobs, which are priced between £74 and £94 for Fiesta and Focus, although customers will also have to pay for almost an hour’s labour to programme and test the system. This is available to owners of the current Fiesta, which has been on sale since 2017, and the latest-generation Focus that was introduced in 2018.
“The online availability of devices, which have no place in public hands, has long been a problem for Ford, our industry and crime fighters,” said Simon Hurr, security specialist at Ford. “We are pleased to extend our simple but effective solution, to help protect more owners of our most popular cars.”