Helping the automotive industry tackle vehicle theft

Electronic manipulation has become a dominant theft method

About us

Adrow works with vehicle manufacturers, security system suppliers, insurers, semiconductor manufacturers and other stakeholders to help them understand the latest theft techniques and advise them how to design-out some of the weaknesses exploited in contemporary vehicle security systems.

Our background is within automotive engineering and our work is firmly evidence-based. There is considerable misinformation about so-called 'keyless' thefts and we specialise in separating fact from fiction for our clients.

The work we do is confidential. You will not find us in the news, on Twitter, or otherwise publicising security weaknesses to the world-at-large. Instead we cooperate in confidence with trusted police networks and our clients to share intelligence and to help develop enhanced security systems.

Evolution of Electronic Manipulation

During the last 25 years, there has been a radical shift in the methods employed by thieves in response to increasing anti-theft countermeasures deployed by car manufacturers.

In the early days, simple ‘hardware’ techniques such as replacing the engine control unit or using a bypass harness often sufficed. As the immobiliser function became distributed among several control units such attacks became harder, requiring multiple devices to be exchanged.

Early key programming tools often required the immobiliser unit to be extracted and manipulated directly. As CAN communications became prevalent, software attacks via the OBD port became possible - and are now the norm.

These attacks have grown in sophistication and other methods, such as software immobiliser overrides were also discovered as reverse-engineering methods became prevalent. Now, criminals have access to a diverse range of tools including relay attack, key emulators, very fast OBD key programmers, etc. Most attacks are now in the software domain.

Adrow conservatively estimates that thefts in Europe due to electronic manipulation cost insurers more than one billion Euro annually.

Quarterly Intelligence Reports

Adrow issues an Electronic Theft Intelligence Report every three months. These reports give our subscribers the very latest information about manipulation methods detected by the police.

If you work in vehicle security and you cannot answer 'yes' to the following questions, these reports will help fill the knowledge gap.

  • Do you understand the latest methods used by criminals to steal cars?
  • Do you know how widespread electronic manipulation has become in vehicle crime?
  • Have you seen what is coming next - the latest tools which emulate keys?
  • Do you realise that effective engine start tools are available from just £10?
  • Are you aware of a new method to enter smart key vehicles which is not relay attack?
  • What are the real-world implications of recent academic research exposing weak key fob communication security?

These confidential reports provide the very latest information on the current threat landscape. Each report includes the following items of electronic theft-related intelligence:

The situation today - electronic manipulation methods and tools detected by the police

New theft threats - informed analysis of newly available tools and their claimed capability

Future threats - recent academic research which could point to future theft methods.


Many modern vehicles can be stolen in seconds - without needing the owner's key - by criminals using tools purchased from the internet. These devices exist because of weaknesses inherent in the security systems of most vehicle manufacturers. Adrow can help because we understand how the tools have been developed and the typical weaknesses exploited.

Adrow can run on-site workshops to raise awareness of how vehicle security systems are being reverse-engineered, what today's tools are capable of and some of the simple measures which could be taken to make future systems more robust.

We also work with other security-related stakeholders to help them understand the basics about modern manipulation methods and how prevalent they have become. We have given seminars on this topic, including live demonstrations, to a range of clients from insurers through to security system suppliers and vehicle manufacturers.