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Masked thieves use ‘relay hacking’ to steal €200k car in brazen Co Galway robbery

‘We don’t know exactly how many people were involved. I’m not 100% sure’

The Range Rover which was stolen

Stock image

Eugene MastersonSunday World

CANNY thieves appear to have used relay hacking to steal a car worth €200,000 from a Co Galway garage.

CCTV footage seen by Sunday World of the brazen theft seems to confirm the method predatory thieves are targeting and stealing upmarket vehicles.

A brand new Range Rover was stolen from outside the showrooms of Adrian Quinn Car Sales at Lahane in south county Galway.

Footage shows from the early hours of Wednesday morning shows a car with headlights slowing down outside the showroom.

The car stops and four men, all wearing hoods, leave their car and place themselves near the main entrance and also near the targeted car.

They easily open the door of the blue Range Rover, with one man driving away in it while the other three jump back into their own car.

“This is the first time it has happened at our garage,” Sean Quinn of Adrian Quinn Car Sales tells the Sunday World.

“We don’t know exactly how many people were involved. I’m not 100% sure.

“There were no number plates on the vehicle they took. I think they took the plates off another vehicle that was parked there and switched them so as not to raise suspicions probably driving on the road.

“It’s a (reg) 221. It was selling for around the 200 mark.”

Sean does not want us to publish the CCTV footage.

“If we got the car back it would give it stigma. It’s not a car you’d sell every day in Ireland. From a sales point it would be too easy to pinpoint,” he stresses.

The local Garda station in Gort is dealing with the theft.

The jacked number plats that were inserted onto the stolen blue Range Rover read ‘181-D-16435’.

Thieves are using relay technology to receive the signal from a key inside a house and transfer it to a portable device, allowing them to unlock and drive the car and in a matter of minutes.

A lot of new cars now have keyless entry systems, or can have them added as an upgrade. This allows the driver to open and start the vehicle without using a button or turning a key so long as the fob is nearby.

Thieves are exploiting this, using sophisticated technology to hack into your vehicle’s computer, meaning they don’t even need a key-fob to start the vehicle and can drive it away in a matter of minutes.

In fact, 96% of motorists are at risk of having their vehicle stolen by criminals using the latest theft technique, according to figures from security company Tracker.

The prominent at-risk are cars that use keyless fobs, as well as ‘connected cars’. In other words those that use internet to access maps, travel info and music – basically anything with an internet-enabled infotainment system.

A relay attack usually involves two people working together. One stands by the targeted vehicle, while the other stands near the premises with a device that can pick up a signal from the key fob. What’s more, some devices can pick up a signal from over 100 metres away.

The device then relays the key fob’s signal directly to the car, allowing the thieves to get in and drive away immediately.

These devices can be bought for as little as E100 online.

Andy Barrs, head of police liaison at British security firm Tracker, said: “As relay attacks become even more prevalent, owners need to protect themselves, particularly since criminal gangs are routinely using relay devices to exploit weaknesses in keyless security systems across a broad range of manufacturers.

“These tools are readily available on the internet for as little as £80 and thefts typically occur in residential areas, where cars are parked relatively close to the house, especially at night.

“It’s worth remembering that technology is just one part of vehicle security and more vigilance needs to be taken across the board; this includes car owners, manufacturers, dealers, insurers and the police.”

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