Explosion of keyless Peugeot 3008 thefts across Belgium

Explosion of keyless Peugeot 3008 thefts across Belgium
New models of the Peugeot 3008 are particularly vulnerable to the attack. Credit: Peugeot Belgium

According to the Nivelles police zone in Wallonia, in the first 15 days of August criminals stole three Peugeot 3008 models from Nivelles alone, with several more being stolen the month prior.

Belgian newspaper SudInfo warns that this is part of a greater spree caused by criminals abusing vulnerabilities in the vehicles. Theives use electronic cracking, also known as Mouse Jacking, in which small programmable devices crack the radio frequency which unlocks the vehicle.

According to Divisional Commissioner Pasal Neyman, Nivelles is not the only area affected by the spate of vehicle thefts. Similar cases concerning the Peugeot 3008 and other vehicles have been recorded in other police zones. It seems that this Peugeot model is particularly susceptible to the attacks, the police warn.

“We suspect that a gang of thieves have found a flaw in this model of car. They are doing it by electronic cracking, by playing with remote key fobs,” Neyman explained.

The Nivelles police zone advises owners of the model to park their vehicles in secure garages or even install an extra alarm system on the vehicle. The police are also asking local residents to be extra cautious and report suspicious behaviour to the police.

In a comment to SudInfo, Axel Legay, professor at UCLouvain and security expert, says that criminals exploit remote keyless opening systems used in many modern vehicles. “On-board (car) computers have never been very secure. When it comes to investing in IT, manufacturers prefer to invest in driver comfort functions rather than in the security of the key,” the expert explains.

To break into a vehicle, thieves approach the vehicle with the occupant inside and record the signal sent by the car key to close the vehicle. The thief then reproduces the signal with a basic tool. With many keyless vehicles, this signal is also enough to also be able to then press the ignition button.”

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Sometimes, thieves will also use a signal scrambler to prevent car owners from properly locking their vehicle, before getting into the unlocked vehicle and hacking into the car computer to start the engine.

This is a growing issue. In the space of five years, the number of Peugeot vehicles being stolen has dramatically increased. According to statistics from the Belgian Federal Police, Peugeot’s are now the second favourite target of vehicle thieves, behind Volkswagen. Despite this trend, total vehicle thefts have fallen by just less than 50% since 2016.

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