Is this the latest version of cyber crime? Some criminals now appear to be using some sort of device to unlock cars with keyless entry systems. Not only that, burglars somehow deactivated the cars' alarm systems and got in and out without leaving a trace. Police are baffled.
"Technology unfortunately is working against us," Long Beach, Calif., police spokeswoman Marlene Arrona told MSN News. "We are hoping that someone can provide us with some information regarding this new technology and shed some light on how someone would obtain this technology."
Long Beach police actually have video of two criminals working this technologic magic. They are seen approaching several parked cars while holding a small, handheld device. The burglars walk up to the cars and are inside in moments. They quickly look for things they can steal, then quietly close the doors and walk away. You can see them in action in this video released by the Long Beach Police Department in April:
More recently, a thief in Westminster, Calif., used a similar technique to break into a photographer's Cadillac Escalade. The car's owner, Steve Doi, happened to have a dashboard video camera mounted under his rear-view mirror. The camera catches the thief walking up while rubbing a small, cellphone-like device against his sleeve. Moments later, the camera picks up sounds of the door opening and the man apparently going through the car's contents. Doi's iPad was stolen, as was his wife's purse and their daughter's iPod.
"This is really frustrating because, clearly, they've figured out something that looks really simple," security expert Jim Stickley told NBC 4. "Whatever they're doing, it just takes seconds to do and that should not be possible."
You can see Doi's dashboard footage in this report:
We've known for a while now that keyless cars can be hacked with the right technology. The tech news site The Register recently outlined a few techniques identified by security researchers, including one that costs just $30. The California thieves appear to be using similar techniques to break into vehicles, but exactly how they do it is as yet unknown. It's also unclear how far this new technique has spread or how many people have been affected by it.
What should car owners do to protect themselves? Nationwide Insurance offers several tips for protecting your car, including keeping your valuables in the trunk and placing them there before you arrive, not when you could be observed. Nationwide also advises parking your car in the open, where it will be a less-enticing target.
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