Cutting-edge crooks with the devices -- sold online for as little as $30 -- are making short work of the modern standard in car security, helping drive a "diabolical" spike in vehicle heists in Queensland.
Thieves are using the devices to thwart immobilisers in cars previously considered "unstealable", as vehicle theft numbers leapt more than a quarter in the year to March. A handful of car makers remain a step ahead of car theft rackets straddling automotive trades and organised crime, but the most popular car brands remain vulnerable, locksmiths and theft investigators said.
The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council knows of thieves overcoming Land Cruiser immobilisers in 12 seconds. NSW police footage shows one thief stealing a Toyota Rav4 in 14 seconds, and online videos show even BMW security codes can be reprogrammed to a new key in minutes.
High-end cars can be overcome with on-board diagnostic tools (OBDs) that are available from China and Eastern Europe over the internet for as little as $30. Customs in NSW recently seized a black-market manual on how to bypass immobilisers, with blank luxury car keys.
Detective Inspector Darryl Charleson said the Queensland Police Vehicle Theft Unit had no intelligence on OBDs but thieves "obviously have ways to get around that mechanism".
But Theft Reduction Council chief Ray Carroll said sophisticated thieves using OBDs were becoming common. "Not long ago insurers were safe in saying a car with an Australian-standard immobiliser that was stolen without the keys was potential fraud," he said.
"Now you can't really say that because there's good evidence where OBDs are able with a bit of black-market software to recode the immobiliser module to a key you've brought along."