WhatsApp is the chat platform of choice for car thieves, according to vehicle protection specialists AX. The service’s end-to-end encryption makes it appealing for those who want to avoid digital eavesdropping.
According to AX, WhatsApp is used to draw up lists of ‘target’ cars, and organise thefts to order. Buyers for the cars or parts to be stripped from them are arranged in advance.
One factor that could make a car a target is, of course, the ease of theft using keyless system loopholes. The spike in such thefts is an ongoing problem for police.
The end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp makes it very difficult for authorities to monitor organised thieves. It’s the equivalent of a phone line that can’t be tapped.
In the 2017-2018 period, 112,000 cars were stolen in the UK. For context, the 2013-2014 figure was 75,308 cars. That’s a rise of 50 percent in five years.
Some carmakers have introduced extra security measures, such as ‘sleep mode’ for keyfobs, but these have been described as ‘not foolproof’.
“The highly organised criminal networks are constantly looking for more secure ways to carry on their ‘businesses’ online and use social media with encrypted messaging capabilities or even online games to covertly communicate with each other” said AX director of investigative services, Neil Thomas.
“The sheer volume of thefts is practically a car theft epidemic and is enabling criminals to purchase costly technology, which then fuels even more car crime.
“The thieves who take the initial risk get the cash payment, then the buyer, who now has a tracker-free car, can then take their time to strip it, clone it or export it. This is where the profit is, especially in terms of the parts which can amount to much more than the complete vehicle.”