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Local automotive intelligence has found that criminals are now using sophisticated technology to target high-end and luxury vehicles featuring keyless or smart entry systems and emergency start capabilities. The rise in these crimes has partly been attributed to increased vehicle usage since businesses re-opened after the COVID-19-induced lockdown, as well as a new modus operandi on the part of criminals and syndicates, such as keyless access theft.

While this phenomenon affects automotive brands across the board – as well as all makes of cars – Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) confirms that it has been proactively conducting extensive research and development into the enhancement of its vehicle security systems.

TSAM’s research and development team acted proactively, forming allies with various parties – including the South African Police Services – in order to gather intelligence about the new methods used by criminals when stealing cars in SA. The intelligence gathered revealed that highly sophisticated cyber-attacks are used by thieves to exploit the vehicle’s computer-controlled systems.

These attacks include three modes: CAN Attack, Fob Relaying and a combination of Forced Entry and Key Cloning.

The CAN Attack happens when the vehicle’s Control Area Network is infiltrated using highly sophisticated electronic equipment to gain entry and then access the computer system to start the engine.

Fob Relaying is achieved using high-tech receivers and transmitters to remotely read the vehicle’s security key whilst in the possession of the owner, thereby allowing the attacker to unlock and start the vehicle.

The third, a combination of Forced Entry and Key Cloning, is executed using advanced techniques and equipment to disable the vehicle’s alarm system, and then cloning its security key.

Having studied the methods mentioned above, TSAM has developed several measures to mitigate possible theft of Toyota and Lexus-branded vehicles in the country. These enhancement measures have already been shared with the Toyota dealer network through a series on practical online sessions and bulletins. In addition, the enhancements have also been reviewed and evaluated by VSS Administration – an independent South African organisation that specialises in vehicle security and automotive systems.

Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at TSAM, Leon Theron says: “We, as Toyota, are committed to developing safe and reliable vehicles and we will continue with our research and development to further enhance our vehicle security systems. I would also like to add that vehicle owners will not negate the warranty on their vehicles should they elect to fit an aftermarket security device – provided that these are installed correctly by a reputable fitment centre.”

Theron added that customers who own the vehicle models mentioned above can take them to their nearest dealership for security enhancements from the first week of December. He concluded that new vehicles as well as those arriving at dealers for servicing will automatically receive these enhancements. These will all be carried out at no cost the customer.

  • These are the affected vehicles: Hilux Legend models from 2019; all Fortuner models from 2016; Land Cruiser Prado (VX and VXL models from 2017); all Land Cruiser 200 with Smart Entry, Land Cruiser 300 and all Lexus RX and LX models from 2015.