Insurers’ refusal to cover keyless cars is an omen for carmakers who are not prioritising security in their increasingly connected cars, Kaspersky Lab says.
Underwriters will only insure Range Rover's £100,000 vehicles if the driver parks ‘off the road’ and uses a location tracker due to a spike in thefts recently.
The cars have been targeted because of vulnerability in the keyless ignition feature. Thieves can bypass the security system, unlock and even start the car engine with small electronic devices that can be bought online. Range Rover has said that the problem is an "industry-wide" issue.
One owner of a Range Rover could not find cover because he did not have underground parking, he told The Times. He was refused by insurance firm AIG after replacing one that was stolen from outside his house.
Almost 300 Range Rover Evoque and Sport models were stolen in a six-month period in London this year, Metropolitan Police figures show.
Security experts have increasingly expressed concerns over carmakers’ focus on security as cars become increasingly connected.
Vicente Diaz, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Labs, said: “This is a timely reminder of how fast times and technology are moving; how cars are implementing more and more technology for different systems and how attackers are actively looking for ways of bypassing security mechanisms implemented, for their own gain. This means, more than ever, that security should be a priority in any new systems or designs, rather than the afterthought it often is.
“In the case of Range Rover, the attackers have obviously established how to bypass their ignition security system. However, what is unclear at this time is whether this is related to a software or a hardware vulnerability or another weakness in their system.”
Lars Reger, auto business lead at semi-conductor producer NXP warned that carmakers need to place security higher up the supply chain, as car parts that come from different suppliers could open vehicles up to vulnerabilities.
A spokesperson for Range Rover said: "The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem. Our line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.
"Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem. This has already resulted in a number of prosecutions."